By John Rieping | Published 3 Jan. 2014 in The Madera Tribune | All rights reserved
I'm not one for New Year's Eve resolutions at the moment, but I recall being so in the past. They were always like Lenten goals or sacrifices except I usually remembered and kept those. Resolutions? Not so much.
Perhaps that's the attraction of beginning a new year with dreams of a new self. The only person who might care you forgot would be the one who forgot. It's a lawyer's "corpus delicti" escape clause (Latin for "body of fault") -- if there's no proof, there's no crime.
This year of 2014, doubtlessly taking advantage of its short stature to ambush me, hit me with a spontaneous resolution on New Year's Day: to reduce time spent on Facebook. That website is, to some such as myself, an insidious nibbler of time.
Keep in mind that a piranha fish could similarly be described as a timid "nibbler" of meat -- at least when solo. However a school of piranhas has a notoriously voracious appetite, and so it can be with social media.
I'd like to claim this intention emerged from a noble desire for self-improvement, the alleged font of all resolutions. But that was more of a secondary perk.
No, honestly, recent stresses of life had shortened my temper like a U.S. military barber cutting hair during the first days of basic training. I didn't display this in person, I hope, but online I sometimes battled temptations to bite off more than a nibble of those who frustrated me.
Those who know me would testify that isn't normal for me. So, shortly before the year 2013 changed its name to 2014 in hopes of a fresh start and less junk mail, I impulsively deactivated my Facebook account.
That lasted until past noon on New Year's Day.
The problem is that social media has become, for some of us, like another telephone number, mail address, or email account. I even get paid a wee bit to regularly update the Facebook page of a local business. Cutting off access has consequences, social and otherwise.
Thus my unplanned resolution took shape: to greatly shrink the time I spent puffing my ego, feeding my curiosity, and being amused (better known as using Facebook). I'm hoping that briefly visiting the website no more than once or twice a day, with a few days away each week, will be practical and more than sufficient to do what should be done.
It is odd, though, what luxuries some of us in the U.S. may consider necessary. Meanwhile, others in the world would be thrilled to have indoor plumbing, lighting, refrigeration, and other "basics" I tend to take for granted.
While I may struggle with self-proclaimed stress, people in South Sudan mourn 1,000 killed last month amid a new civil war. Nearly eight times that number in non-combatants died last year in "liberated" Iraq, the toll in Syria's civil war has passed 130,000 (a third of that civilians), and so on. Compared to any of that, I don't know the meaning of the word stress.
A man wounded by personal tragedy wrote Pope Francis recently: "What has happened to the hearts of men?"
I can hear his question echo personally to myself: what has happened to my heart, so often unmoved by the difficulties of others or captivated by its own concerns? Though I "feel" for others, how hard it is to prod myself into action -- or worse yet sacrifice -- on their behalf. An occasional act of kindness is enough for me to crown myself a hero.
Interestingly, I asked a similar question in this very newspaper column on Jan. 11, 2013. "Every boy dreams himself a hero / and sees his face in every epic life. / Yet what changes within our hearts / that we rise less and less when called?"
Years gallop on while we limp forward and call it progress.
Even so, the answer then is the same now, and the season of Christmas recalls it annually because we need to hear it that often or more. What answer? Christians believe it is this: humanity has been offered the gift of a God who became man so that we, in exchange, may be able to share in the divine life, which above all else is supernatural love.
It is not a love that does what is expected, reasonable, or fair. It is a love, empowered by God, that reflects the very face of God to friend and foe alike.
Let us resolve anew to love like God loves us.