Consider the words to the old hymn, “I Am Resolved”: I am resolved no longer to linger, charmed by the world’s delights. Things that are higher, things that are nobler — these have allured my sight. Prime-time television and movie ads all indicate that the nation is in dire need of setting its sights on something higher and nobler. If language is the dress of our thoughts, script writers are having some mighty ignoble thoughts these days. How about some nobility in language for 2013?
And about our dress. Been to the store lately? No, forget the store. Everybody has to occasionally run to the store unkempt. In fact, people who frequent the store in work clothes at the end of the day, particularly outdoor laborers, should receive our respect. Preachers who preach with their shirt tails out are a different matter, and believe me, lots of them do.
Where I grew up, the poorest of the poor understood “Sunday best,” and it didn’t include preachers with shirt tails. Nowadays, those who should be the standard bearers — in dress and everything else — have, in effect, ditched the standards. It’s more cool to be one of the troops. Who needs leaders in a modern age?
Higher and nobler are terrific words. I say that just thinking about them periodically, and pondering whether or not we measure up to them, beats a long list of resolutions any day. But we still like our lists; therefore, I’ll make one for all of us, one with three areas we all need to work on.
Number 1: We will all drive in the right lane unless we need to pass or simply drive a little faster. Has anyone noticed that the left lane has become the slow lane? Check it out on every four-lane road as well as on the Interstates, for Heaven’s sake.
I suspect there are two factors at work here. One is psychological; the other philosophical. Psychology leads us to the left lane because we think we will automatically move faster, but when everybody moves to the left lane, the right lane becomes virtually empty and therefore the faster lane. (I know you’re already thinking this is silly, but the issue is more than a passing concern for me.)
Regarding the philosophical aspect, some people hold the philosophy that they should be allowed to do what they want, no matter what the rules are. Forgetting that rules are the price we pay for civilization, their thinking is, “I like the left lane; I’ll stay in the left lane.” Bad philosophy, bad attitude, and bad luck for motorists who sincerely need to rush ahead for a potentially life-changing appointment. So … right lane for normal speeds; left lanes for PASSING.
Number 2: We will all control the noise in our lives. I have searched unsuccessfully for the source of the quote, “Never speak unless you can improve the silence,” but if I ever locate its originator, I will drive miles to shake his or her hand.
Noise is taking its toll on mind and body. Traffic noise we can understand; engines make noise. But are you looking for a quiet restaurant and not a quasi-private birthday celebration? Forget it. Stay home. Trying to escape the ubiquitous television screen? Forget that too. Just head to the woods with a tent. All four of the gasoline stations I patronize have screens for me to watch the instant I exit my car. OK, I don’t have to watch them, but I do have to hear them while I’m pumping.
Here’s a related noise question. Is 24-hours-a-day news really news? More fundamentally, is it good never to have any time with one’s own thoughts? Do we need the constant flow of someone else’s? I’m not saying cut the cable, but I am saying resist the remote. Whether online or in print, reach for a newspaper. It’s quieter.
Number 3: We will all make friends with someone of a different race and/or a different political persuasion. Does anyone think that America could never become a place of violence with opposing factions fighting in the streets? We could and will unless we cease making enclaves of our homes and neighborhoods and return to the value and practice of genuine, old-fashioned neighborliness, especially toward those who are different from us.
Many of us are frustrated and have good reason to be, but 2013 can afford us the chance to channel the frustration and exercise some nobility.
Happy New Year!
Roger Hines of Kennesaw is a retired high school teacher and former state legislator.