I was a mess when first at university. Having received a full scholarship in music, I was able to attend a school far beyond my means. To make myself more interesting I wore only black clothing for several months into my freshman year. When asked about my "major,"which is a common question among students, I advised persons outside the music department I was majoring in Terminology.
Since St. Mary's University is a Catholic school, my wearing of black merely made normal persons (again those outside the music department) think I was either a priest or one of the Marianist Brothers who were the backbone of the facility.
When this misconception became apparent, I "lost"the black clothing overnight in hopes of improving my odds of getting lucky with one or more of the hundreds of fascinating co-eds flocking about the campus. Oddly enough, as a mere civilian they seemed to find me less interesting and more intimidating, as well as suspect.
Though I had shed my silly uniform, I kept my synthetic major area of study, namely Terminology. To those who wondered aloud regarding the what, why, where and when of Terminology, I explained how it was "the study of terminations,"as in "endings". As with the wearing of black, this misguided attempt at drawing attention to myself, also seemed to back-fire. Soon the campus was lousy with students of Terminology. It became a celebrated topic of trivial discussion; the sort of verbal gymnastics young scholars seem prone to force upon one another.
Oddly enough, the study of Terminology has stayed with me these three decades, while much of the rest I learned at the hands of "higher"education has resolved itself into a thin residue I encounter while rummaging around in the remote recesses of my mind.
In fact, I've come to consider Terminology as a fundamental precept of life. Without it, we would be hard pressed to cope; without Terminology insanity might well prevail.
I ask you, is not life itself merely a series of endings? And along with these endings, the possibility of just as many wondrous new beginnings. Examples abound: the end of the week, the end of the day, the end of pain, the end of school, the end of the movie, the end of a relationship, the end of the payments on a loan and so on.
Two biggies in the study of Terminology are the end of one's life, and also the end of the year. Let others deal with the former termination elsewhere. For now, let us consider the year's end.
As noted above, with all endings there are beginnings! Some would say the beginnings are the best part, and while this may be true, they simply cannot happen without that all important ending prior to the said beginning! So Terminology is the true field of study here; "beginnings"are merely another attribute of the Science of Terminology.
Being human, it is traditional and perhaps normal for us to use endings and beginnings as a sort of moral punctuation to our behavior. Accordingly, we use the New Year as a time to proclaim the shedding of various "bad habits"and the birth of a new self that will henceforth sin no more.
Of course if we fail in our new endeavor and resume smoking cigarettes, eating chocolate or using bad language, there is always next year to begin anew!
As one who has studied Terminology for over 30 years, I have seen many resolutions offered at years end. They span the universe of human behavior, or misbehavior, as the case may be. While some offer New Year's resolutions in jest, such as, "I will let no more lint gather in my navel,"many persons practice this ritual in dead earnest! And it is to this latter group I now speak.
Of all the serious resolutions I have seen, hear or read, one in particular stands out as the most profound of them all. So impressed was I when first I heard this simple pronouncement that I have sincerely used it for my very own ever since.
What are these earth shaking words? None other than: My New Years resolution is to be a good person.
For all the years that followed, I steadfastly endeavored to live up to this awful task and yet always seemed to fail. Even so, as each new year began, I once again uttered my proclamation with fortitude and assurance.
The yardstick I used to determine my goodness or lack thereof was none other than the Golden Rule, namely: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
A great and terrible task, perhaps the most worthy and noble of them all! And yet, as will all things perfect, I found a problem. It had to do with the fine print, namely: the human trait of justification.
When we don't follow the Golden Rule to the letter, we can always find reasons to justify our misbehavior.
My great grandfather owed a debt of $5.00 to a person located 18 miles away. The debt, secured by his word only, was to be paid in person by sundown on a given day. When the morning of that day arrived, my relative learned his appointed ride would not be available. He searched high and low and found no horse, no wagon, no bicycle and in fact no means to reach his destination. He could have said, "Well, I will wait and see if there is a ride tomorrow." But instead he walked those 18 miles and paid his debt just before sundown. He became famous for this act.
I feel he would have been justified in postponing payment, but he would not break his word. He would not interpret, nor compromise the Golden Rule. Perhaps he was a better person than I, for I'm certain I would not have walked those miles for a debt of even a hundred time more!
Still, I continued to honor my yearly resolution to be a good person. Yet at years end, I always seemed to find myself lacking. Ultimately, I began to suspect that being a truly good person just wasn't normal and that people like my grandfather's sire may not exist anymore, if indeed they ever had.
Then, once upon a great and happy time, I came upon a set of rules that changed my whole perception of what being a "good person"really meant! My life was forever altered and I have since held these rules close to my heart as a treasure of immeasurable worth!
Now I utter my New Year's resolution with complete assurance! I feel certain I will indeed live up to this resolution; that I am and will be a good person throughout the coming year and throughout the remainder of this life.
I still consider the Golden Rule a most worthy attribute, one toward which we should all aspire. But now, I measure my personal goodness against this new set of rules. The author of the rules is unknown to me, but one thing is certain: he or she is/was among the wisest beings ever to walk among us.
Please allow me to offer you these same Rules For Being Human. I pray they will bring Peace Profound now and forevermore. Oddly enough, they appear to be based entirely on what I always thought of as the imaginary Science of Terminology!
Rules For Being Human
- You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.
- You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.
- There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error and experimentation. The "failed"experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately "works."
- A lesson is repeated until learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.
- Learning does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
- "There"is no better than "here."When your "there"has become a "here,"you will simply obtain another "there"that will again look better than "here."
- Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
- What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
- Your answers lie inside you. The answers to life's questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen and trust.
- You will forget all of this.
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