I avoid year end resolutions because I am not good at them. Changes should be few and worthy of serious commitment. Discipline is less of a chore when it becomes a habit, and a habit requires some motivation or pleasure or some sort of psychological disorder.
If there is one lesson to be learned from the political sphere this year it is that rage makes you stupid. Rage is the supremacy of negative emotions over reason. It is the abdication of self-control; allowing the behavior of others to determine your state of mind. Rage is an admission of defeat.
Rage is not dissipated with rage. It does not respond well to understanding either, but at least understanding minimizes its contagion.
The news is mostly about rage, history books are about understanding. I endeavor to spend far more time with the latter. My reading is focused on the progressive era. A long time ago I learned a great personal tip: if you read 20 minutes a day on a focused topic you will become an expert on that topic in two years. That may seem short. Malcolm Gladwell wrote that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, whether it be guitar, a foreign language, or a sport. That is almost 14 hours a day if your compress it into two years. Developing physical skills is different; the similarity is changing discipline into habit.
The secret is defining your topic specifically. I do not know much about history, and I consider my knowledge of American history limited; but I can hold my own on the Progressive Era from 1890 to 1920.
What I have learned is that our heroes are very human with significant shortcomings. History is flawed by the reality that it is written by the winners. “History will be kind to me, for intend to write it,” noted Winston Churchill.
Senator Mike Lee wrote Written Out of History to focus on the anti-Federalists who opposed the constitution and why they dissented. While we hear little of Luther Martin, George Mason, and Elbridge Gerry they had great impact on the constitution they rejected, particularly in the addition of the Bill of Rights. He also noted the abuse of power of Thomas Jefferson in his failed prosecution of Aaron Burr for treason.
Understanding requires we acknowledge our flaws and imperfections; our personal and cognitive short comings, and the imperfections of our ideas.
A lesson from a passing comment on a Jonah Goldberg Remnant podcast (highly recommended). Being ideological is not the same as being dogmatic. An ideology is more of a list of priorities. We do not really understand our ideology unless we can state its flaws. Likewise, we do not understand an opposing ideology unless we know its strengths.
Equivocation makes for unclear and weak writing. In striving for clarity it is easy to mistake it for certainty. The more I strive for clarity the less certain I am about anything.
At 66 I am more inclined to accepts my flaws than work hard to correct them. Again, tipping to Churchill I would hope to limit my annoying virtues and be less ashamed of my admirable vices.
I am grateful to the authors, writers and thinkers who spent considerable effort to bring sparks of illumination into my hands. I am most grateful to the friends who laugh out loud and share their curiosity, especially when they disagree. I have long lost my taste for Kool-Aid.