As we enter a new decade with the start of the year 2020, I have been thinking a lot about the tradition of creating resolutions. I have also been thinking about the meaning of resolutions. I have also noticed that resolve plays into one keeping ones resolutions.
Both words, Resolution and Resolve, come from the Latin base resolvere which means to loosen or release. According to the Oxford Dictionary the word Resolution is a noun that has the following definitions: a firm decision to do or not do something; the quality of being determined or resolute; and the act of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter. Also according to the Oxford Dictionary the word Resolve, when used as a verb, is defined as to settle or find a solution to a problem, dispute, or contentious matter or to firmly decide on a course of action. When the word Resolve is used as a noun it is defined as a firm determination to do something.
Ironically the Latin base meaning to loosen or release is so far for the the firm and determined language of the modern words Resolve and Resolution. Maybe that’s why it is so hard to keep some of the resolutions that we give to ourselves…. we know that deep down in their Latin base it is only loosely given and possibly it is a way to release ourselves from a commitment we didn’t want to make.
I have never been one to make a lot of resolutions before the new year. I have a set of guides that I lay out for myself that deal with my art, writing and creativity. These are extremely helpful and yet loose enough to not overwhelm me creatively. Most years, I am able to reach most of these gentle goals. For example, three years ago, my goal was to write one Haiku poem a month. I successfully completed the goal and through that process fell in love with the simple yet challenging beauty of writing Haiku poetry.
Some of my friends have had some very fun and creative resolutions. One friend tried eating a new food or dish once a month for an entire year. I remember her telling me about different things that she was trying. Some she recommend and others she said she would not eat again.
Another friend gave herself a reading challenge that included a certain number of books but also certain types. If I am remembering correctly she had to read so many non-fiction books, biographies, autobiographies and much more. She shared some of the books that she was reading because of this challenge to herself. It was fun to hear about how exciting this process was for her and the new and exciting things she was learning.
I had heard an interview on NPR in the late 1990’s about a photographer who was living in a very remote area (I think it was above the Arctic Circle) for a year. He had limited film reserves and had to develop his own pictures. Because of severe weather conditions, there could be weeks where supplies for food would be hard enough to get, let alone the film and chemicals to develop the film. He challenged himself to only taking one picture a day for the entire year that he was there. When asked how did he know when to take a picture each day. The photographer said that at first he didn’t know and there were some terrible first shots. But then he got into this rhythm of carrying his camera, when he some something interesting he would take a picture. Once the picture for that day was taken, that was it. I remember him saying that he developed all the rolls of film and there were 365 photos and not all of them were good or even turned out. He said that the experience changed his life and the way he approached his photography.
If the numerous advertisements on every form of media is any indication, weight loss and gym memberships are at the basis of many new resolutions. Do not get me wrong. Positive and healthy goals for ones health and wellness is a good thing. But hearing and seeing those ads, I wonder if the focus is all external and superficial.
That may be one of the reasons why I loved the goals about different kinds of books, trying new foods, taking one photo a day and yes, the Haiku poetry writing challenge. Not only did they provide a challenge, but they also provided a positive change to the individuals who participated in them. These Resolutions are growth experiences. Life changing experiences.
My challenge for you is to find Resolutions that challenge more than your physical body. My hope is your Resolve will provide experiences, in the Latin base traditions of the words. That loosen constraints and release you from things holding you back. I hope you choose resolutions that challenge you creatively, provide growth, opportunities for exploration and amazing life changing experiences.