Has this ever happened to you? You’re sitting patiently (if exasperatedly) in a lengthy queue of vehicles moving at a snail’s pace as you exit a highway, when suddenly a procrastinator on wheels zooms past you on the left and cuts the line.
After all, why should everyone wait in line just because most of us are docile enough to obediently play by the rules?
Civility is no easy thing to sustain on a regular basis, day to day, minute by minute. We’re only human. Beckoning our better angels to the dark side are a demimonde of demons; to wit, aggression, anger, blaming, bullying, dishonesty, greed, narcissism, negativity, profanity – had enough? They all qualify as so-called “contagions,” defined in this context as “the spreading of a harmful idea or practice.”
What if we all borrowed a page from “Dry January” – the discipline of total alcohol abstention for 31 days – and joined in harmony to synchronize the same set of resolutions, by abstaining as one from ill-advised behavior.
Imagine if, when its inclement weather, or at dusk or dawn, or otherwise beclouded conditions, we resolve to realize there’s a sensible reason most other motorists on the road have headlights on – to clearly see each other when visibility is compromised – and to join them by enlightening ourselves.
Imagine if, when we read a customer’s complaint about a business on social media, we resolve to not reflexively pile on to further bash the business without stopping to remember there are two sides to a story and (unless we had a similar experience at the same shop) we’re only reading one side, by someone we may not even know.
Imagine if, when we’re in a public place using our phone, we resolve to speak in a whisper, and to enjoy music or video with earphones so nobody else is involuntarily subjected to our personal media choices.
Imagine if, when we’re on public transit (think Metro North), we resolve to use the overhead racks to store our belongings and not place them on an empty seat, especially at rush hour.
You can play this game at home by coming up with your own reasonable resolutions to which we all can commit.
Oops. I left out one detail. Being a pragmatist as well as a dreamer, I don’t expect our investing more thoughtfully in mutual consideration, per these examples, to be sustained for the entirety of 2023. That delusional I’m not. Rather, if we all were able to stick with such simple resolutions for merely a single day – 24 hours, max – that would be a major victory, and a minor miracle.
Wishing all a year filled with as much goodness and kindness as we can tolerate.
Bruce Apar is Editorial Director + Associate Publisher of River Journal North