What's Tony Thinking

Entitlement De-Tox


As the old joke goes . . . “Want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

Maybe 2022 isn’t the year for it? Plans, resolutions, big goals, that is. Many of you liked the “New Year Blessing” from Nadia Bolz-Weber which took a set-the-expectations-bar low approach. Less expectation, more gratitude.

At the Atlantic, Faith Hill is singing, if not the same hymn then from the same hymnal. She counsels that 2022 is not the year for the annual ritual of resolutions. Here’s Hill:

“How 2022 will unfold is so uncertain that choosing new goals feels like setting forth in a snowstorm, squinting into a great blurry expanse. So I’ve resolved to not make any resolutions this year. And I don’t think you should either.”

Uncertain, yep. In the Christmas carol “In the Bleak Midwinter,” Christina Rossetti wrote, “Snow had fallen snow on snow, Snow on snow . . .” which has certainly been happening here in the Pacific Northwest and its mountains. But snow is not the only thing that keeps falling. It is uncertainty. Uncertainty upon uncertainty. Plans keeps running aground. Schedules get shuffled like a deck of cards.

When will the pandemic end? What’s next from the COVID shape-shifter? Will schools stay open? Should they? When should we wear masks? Will the Republic survive? What about next week?

A dear friend, John McFadden, who is being treated for cancer writes that the whole experience is reinforcing lessons about “living in the moment.”

“So, a day at a time, one foot in front of the other, and avoiding reading about how poor my long-term prognosis is.  My friends with dementia taught me a great deal about living in the moment, and cancer is reinforcing that learning.”

We’ve asked many times, “Is there something we are supposed to be learning from this pandemic?” It strikes me that what John expressed may be it . . . living in the moment. One day at a time.

Holding our plans lightly. More emphasis on gratitude than achievement.

Western culture, since the Enlightenment, has been about human power and control. That’s not all bad by any means. But every virtue pushed too hard, too far, flips over and becomes a vice. In our case, it becomes an illusion of control and a kind of spiritual arrogance. We think we’re in charge.

Pushed a little further it becomes the rather unappealing attitude of “entitlement.” We’re entitled to life going according to our expectations, our desires. Really? Who says? What could be a greater sign of privilege than the pervasive attitude of entitlement?

I am often struck by how much of what we get as “news” or commentary on the news or social science or other scientific research is really the attempt to predict the future. We may not practice the ancient arts of augury as in the reading the tea leaves, numerology, or studying the flight of birds, but we are into prediction every bit — really way more — than the soothsayers and fortune-tellers of old. We try to get control of an uncertain future, to predict market trends, to foresee shifting political alignments, to plan for every contingency.

Maybe . . . just maybe, if there is a message in the pandemic bottle, a word of the Lord out of this whirlwind, it is something about living in the moment, in the present. Holding our plans lightly. Detoxing from entitlement. Putting on the garments of humility. Less emphasis on control. More on gratitude.


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