On Self Improvement in 2007 AD

On the final afternoon of 2006, I went with my friends Chris and Eileen Hairel to visit the Benjamin Franklin exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural History. The exhibit comprehensively chronicled the life of Franklin, from his beginnings as a printer in Philadelphia, to his successes in business and civic development, to his scientific experiments with electricity, and finally to his crucial role in the formation of the United States of America. It was a fascinating exhibit that featured many of Franklin's publications and personal effects, and I plan to follow up on it by studying Franklin this year.

My favorite part of the exhibit stemmed from Franklin's well-known (if not overly successful) efforts at self-improvement. Late in his life, Franklin often suffered debilitating pain from gout, a condition brought on by consuming of too much meat and beer and not getting enough exercise. To acknowledge the role his bad habits played in bringing about his pain, he composed a dialogue between himself and "Madam Gout," which was shown as a hilarious cartoon near the end of the exhibit.

I understand where Ben Franklin was coming from in his struggles with self-improvement - I compose a plan at this time every year, and do not always carry it out particularly well. After looking at my plan for 2006, I would say that I followed through on about 20% of it (I did better in 2004 and 2005). This year, I've decided to distill the whole production into a few little things I need to improve on, which I hope will make a big difference as I go through the year.

So with my head in the clouds and my feet on the ground, I humbly offer my New Year's Resolutions for the year 2007 AD:

1) Support local business and "fair-trade" ventures habitually, and encourage everyone else around me to do the same.

2) Seek to understand my friends, my neighbors, and my cat. Practice empathic listening. "Be swift to listen, slow to talk, and slow to anger."

3) Live more simply. Be content with less material possessions, and value the things that money can't buy.

4) Be punctual. Develop a habit of going to bed at 11 and getting up at 7.

5) Make wise commitments, and follow through on them diligently.

6) Eat less, and exercise at least twice a week.

7) Explicitly and sincerely honor God in my words and actions.

Touchstones for 2007:

1) Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton
2) Benjamin Franklin
3) The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
4) Psalms 1 and 51
5) Isaiah 58
6) Matthew 5-7

On an unrelated note, in the last two days of 2006, I ate bratwurst, brisket, chicken, fajita meat, buffalo, and summer sausage, and drank about eight beers. I'm sure Benjamin Franklin would be proud...


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