New Year’s is one of my favorite holidays. Not the debauchery. I love making resolutions. I find personal maintenance challenging so my list begins with things like sleep, exercise, and healthy food. I tend toward isolation so I make rules like: if you spend one day alone you have to get out and be with people the next day. I am happier outside, but I forget that easily so I make it a rule: spend time outside everyday. I even tell myself to breath. Basic maintenance.
I can usually hold myself to a resolution for a week, but that does not mar my enthusiasm for the process. In my heart of hearts however, I know such individual efforts at self-betterment, without social structures that support our human welfare, are of limited value. I know that thinking we can be “good” all by ourselves, or that every success is a result of personal fortitude, is not only false, but dangerous. It leads us to categorize ourselves and others as inherently good or bad, to think we can eliminate the bad apples without upsetting the apple cart.
In the United States the number one personal resolution at New Years is to lose weight. It’s always at the top of my list. Yet the Blue Zone folks have incontrovertible evidence that creating healthy community structures, not individual will power, is key of solving obesity.
Same goes for everything else we want to do as a society. It’s not about rooting out bad eggs or apples and encouraging individual will power. It’s about creating healthy, equitable social structures, systems and policies that encourage all of us to do better.
We are not the good guys if we resort to bombing the “bad guys.” We won’t solve domestic gun violence by mental health screening because all humans are susceptible to mental dis-ease. We won’t create a just policing system by routing out bad apples; the cart is rotten.
We are all just apples, capable of sweetness, permeable to worms. As a society we need to develop the structures that encourage us humans to take good care of ourselves and each other, to share our collective wealth, to care for our earth, to mete out equal justice.
This year I resolve to meditate every day. My mantra will be: I am just an apple. I look forward to joining all you other apples in 2016, to make a better cart for all of us.