Today is the sixth day of 2019. How many resolutions have you already made—and broken?
Whatever your views are on the utility of New Year’s resolutions, it is true that the passing of one calendar year, and the dawn of a new one, especially when the days are short and cold, prompts reflection and contemplation. One remembers past achievements (or failures), and resolves to be a better person (however defined) in the future.
Now, I can offer no special advice or insights in this regard. But it does seem to me that all too often we judge a person’s worth by the things they have (nice house, fancy car, expensive clothes) rather than by what they do (practice kindness, generosity, empathy). To the ancient Greeks and our Founding Fathers, character was destiny. And, as I have discussed (here), without practicing kindness, how can we ever be in a position to do the right thing when we are tested, such as Odd Nansen did, and all those recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among The Nations did, even in the face of mortal danger.
So, I would like to share with you a quote by a Norwegian, Arne Garborg (1851–1924), who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times:
“For money you can have everything it is said. No, that is not true. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine but not health; soft beds, but not sleep; knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort; fun, but not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not faithfulness; grey hair, but not honor; quiet days, but not peace. The shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot be had for money.”
[Thanks to my friend Norma Askeland Smith for introducing me to Garborg. When Norma’s mother left Norway to get married in America in 1934, Norma’s uncle Gunnar Thompson gave Norma’s mother a book of poetry by Garborg, his favorite writer. “I like to think this passage meant something to him as well,” she writes. Gunnar Thompson, a teacher, was arrested by the Nazis on March 15, 1941, was transferred to Sachsenhausen on September 6, 1941, and died there on July 1, 1942, age 34.]