“Excuse me. If I could have everyone’s attention please.
Thank you, one and all for gathering here to celebrate with me tonight. It’s been a long year, filled with ups and downs. We’ve all had our share of challenges. We’ve had victories. We’ve had defeats. Reasons to laugh. Reasons to cry.
But this year, it’s going to be different. This is the year everything comes together for us. This–my friends–will be OUR year!
So please, raise your glasses with me, and let’s toast: TO THE END OF OURSELVES!”
(Muffled silence. Barely audible clinking. Murmurs of confusion. Toastmaster slowly makes his way around the outside of the table.)
“You see, my friends, this new year comes brimful with opportunities. A clean slate. A chance to start anew. This is the time for muscular endeavors and conquering new frontiers and striving to summit new peaks. The siren-song of perfection beckons us ever-upward, drawing us nearer and nearer the top. ‘Onward and upward!’ is the battle cry of the human heart. So we dig in our heels, slam down our pick-axes and continue our journey up the mountain. The ascent is hypnotic. The battle is in our blood. And you and I shall soon stand atop that peak, beacons of human potential, head and shoulders above the rest! The lofty heights–ahh, yess–that is a mark worthy of such red-blooded attempts as ours.”
(Belted out at full volume, while stomping the floor): “Ladies and gentlemen all: Let us therefore storm that perch!”
(Silence. Guests now transfixed. A brief pause ensues while the toastmaster refills his brandy. After a momentary pause at the fireplace, he lights a cigar and continues making his way around the room.)
(Thoughtfully): “But why–if I may be so bold as to ask–why is UPWARD considered the more noble direction? Why is SELF-reliance considered a virtue? It may seem criminal or even downright–God forbid–un-American to raise a question like this. After all, as we gaze into the endless potential of 2019, a myriad of possibilities unfold before us. And it is OUR OWN strength, OUR OWN stamina, OUR OWN blood and sweat and tears that will power us forward and allow us to persevere. WE must strive. WE must succeed. And WE must reach deep into the recesses of our own souls to make it happen. What this New Year really needs, then, is more of US!”
(Toastmaster looks around the room, locking eyes with each guest in turn).
“But there are–in fact–other directions that we might traverse the mountain–directions other than up. Directions that don’t require MORE–but actually LESS of us. Life, we think, is for the strong and powerful. It is upward-thrusting, not downward-thrusting, and that is why we must grasp toward the Heavens if we hope to live life to its fullest. After all…YOLO!”
(A few chuckles resound.)
(Toastmaster thoughtfully swirls his glass and then continues, gesturing vehemently).
“But I must protest quite loudly here, my friends, for everyone knows that life is not always drawn skyward! In fact, it is in the deep crevasses and soiled blackness below the earth that life actually begins. Roots–the life-giving foundation of all plant life–grow downward…deeper and deeper…to support the stalk. And, in fact, for such life to thrive, death must occur! After all, where do seeds come from? A great man once said it like this:
Truly, truly, I say to you: Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it bears many seeds.
My point, dear friends, is this: Maybe, just maybe, what we DON’T need in 2019 is to live more, but to die more. To die to ourselves. To die to our own aspirations and self-justifying attempts at profit and gain. To die to our selfish attempts at greatness masked in “can do” piety.
Maybe, rather than heeding the upward-calling siren song of the mountain peak, we–like Ulysses–must lash ourselves to the mast, plug our ears, and die a little. You see, it actually takes more strength NOT to heed that song. It takes more strength to die to ourselves than to live for ourselves.
And isn’t that a more noble goal? A more worthy New Year’s resolution? On January 1st, that shiny new treadmill might look like the solution to all of your problems; the key to the good life. But on January 2nd you’ll quickly realize it’s not. Because it doesn’t stop. It’s endless. Insatiable. And at some point, that endless treadmill will beat you. Your muscles will atrophy. And that mountain peak will fade into the clouds.
So, maybe in 2019, we don’t actually need MORE, but LESS of ourselves. And maybe the end of all self-reliance is actually the best place we could possibly be, because it brings us to the doorstep of another.
As another great man has wisely said:
The end of our rope is the door to God’s office.
(Toastmaster again seats himself at the head of the table and refills his glass. He looks up, grins, and with a twinkle in his eyes, he raises it high and bellows): “A toast, brothers and sisters: To the end of ourselves!”
(Everyone heartily responds): “To the end of ourselves!”
(All drain glasses to the dregs.)