It’s that time of year again—time for resolutions. List makers will list them; the sloppy among us will make mental notes; the cynical will say, “Never again!”
Yes, resolutions for the new year are a cliche, but determining to do things differently—taking ourselves off autopilot and living more consciously—is anything but a tired cliche.
This year, I’m building my (sloppy mental) list on avoiding what the twentieth century philosopher Martin Heidegger enumerated as three diseases of the soul:
1. We have forgotten to notice we are alive.
2. We have forgotten everything is connected.
3. We have forgotten we are free.
I don’t have to agree with Heidegger’s solutions to these problems in order to agree that these are THE mistakes that keep many of us locked in our cages of irresolute habit.
In his third point, “we have forgotten we are free,” Heidegger is underlining that not only do we live in cages of habit, but we also reject our own freedom by falling into culturally induced prejudices and provincial assumptions. We forget to think outside of the boxes we live in every day.
For me, noticing that I am alive involves a daily routine of getting up, making some coffee, and writing before the distractions of the day begin. And—dang it—it involves exercise, which I find less attractive than writing.
For me, remembering that everything is connected involves finding wonder, reverence, and humility through meditation, a practice that I have followed—sometimes assiduously and sometimes not so much—for decades. But for me anyway, I’d always rather say, “Skip it.”
I forget that I am free when I forget that I live in a comfortable, privileged bubble. When I forget that having food and safety are privileges not enjoyed by most of the human beings on our shared planet.
We all live in the real world, but our subjective world—the one we personally experience—can create those diseases of the soul Heidegger talks about.
All three of these “forgettings” are about worldview. Worldviews are funny things—we have one whether we know it or not, and if we haven’t examined our worldview, the default, autopilot one keeps us from being authentically alive, connected, and free. Worldview matters. It affects how we act in the world.
Fortunately, a worldview can be changed with a little . . . resolution.
This year I will strive to remember that I’m alive—though the time is short—; that I’m connected with everything else in the cosmos; and that my vision is very, very limited. We’ll see what happens next . . .
(A fuller look at Heidegger’s ideas is available in “The Philosopher’s Mail”—