"People hang on his every word, even the prepositions."
"He lives vicariously through himself."
"He bowls overhand."
"He is the most interesting man in the world."
Knocking out my prior two favorite commercials (the eTrade Baby and the original Geico caveman - much superior to the new) is the Dos Equis Beer "Most Interesting Man in the World" ad campaign. Described as a cross between Ernest Hemingway and Don Draper, the commercial features a gray-haired, rough-hewn spokesman who at the end of the ad, smiles, leans into the camera holding a Dos Equis and says "stay thirsty my friends." Ah yes, the perfect New Year's resolution.
I don't know about you, but at the beginning of each New Year I tend to get wrapped up in framing the "perfect" resolution list. Yet every year no matter how much I try, the list always devolves into predictable mind-numbing stuff like "lose ten pounds, read more, become more spiritual."
In 2012, I've decided to do something different. No long lists, no flow charts. This year I am following the timeless, yet simple Dos Equis wisdom: "stay thirsty my friends."
Okay, yes it encourages us to go out and buy beer. Worse things could happen. But this phrase also offers us all some fresh insight. What if we committed to "stay thirsty" -- intellectually, emotionally and spiritually thirsty -- throughout 2012? How much richer our lives (and our world) might be.
To be intellectually thirsty is probably the easiest of the three. We just take a lesson from little kids. Somewhere around the age of five, we all find a new word - a favorite word - that we begin to use more than any other. And that word is "why."
"Why is the sun yellow?"
"Why do stars twinkle?"
"Why does Grandpa stay in the bathroom so long?"
At that early age we aren't scared of questions. The looming dread of seeming ignorant has not set in. Sadly in adult life that dread takes center stage. We confuse curiosity with ignorance. Newsflash: questions do not demonstrate ignorance. The lack of questions is the problem. Voltaire perhaps said it best: "judge a man by his questions, not his answers."
When we stop asking questions, we stop learning. And when we stop learning, we stop living. Reclaim your sense of curiosity, ask the questions, stay intellectually thirsty my friends.
Staying emotionally thirsty is a bit tougher. And please understand by emotional thirst I don't mean clingy. I mean emotionally available. To be thirsty means to be empty. And sometimes we need to do just that - empty ourselves of ourselves. Doing this allows us to become thirsty again; thirsty, that is, for others. If we are thirsty for others, we seek them out, we focus more intensely, we listen more deeply. It's like the prayer of Saint Francis: "Grant that we may not so much seek to be understood as to understand."
What does this mean in practical terms? It means think about someone else for a change. Make a point to actually listen. What are their fears? Their dreams? Their joys? When we focus only on ourselves, we lose one of the greatest gifts of life - the gift of relationship; the ability to love and be loved; the healing of community. Empty yourself of yourself. Try and listen to understand. Stay emotionally thirsty my friends.
The most difficult of the three may be maintaining spiritual thirst. If we are spiritually thirsty, we crave meaning and purpose. Sadly this world is not a place that nurtures that thirst.
It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling powerless and insignificant. Everything in the news is negative; every story is about how huge the problems are and how no one has a solution. Eventually we get to a point where we just don't care anymore - we lose our thirst for meaning.
Not to get too religious for the blogosphere, but if I ever feel insignificant I think of the phrase in the bible that says "indeed, the very hairs of your head are counted." (Luke 12:7) I mean why would God or the universe or whoever take the time to do that unless we had some importance?
A more philosophical approach was taken by the Transcendentalist Thoreau who acknowledged that "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation."
Yet it was the Transcendentalist that also believed deeply in the power and sanctity of the individual. As Emerson wrote, "Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for."
Just for a moment put aside your 21st century skepticism and listen: Each of us was created for something unique and important. Each us of us has a role in this world, whether we realize it or not. The good news is that our understanding of that role (or lack thereof) has no bearing on our significance. Aware, or not, we go forward. We search for meaning. That's why we're here. That's what we do. Or at least that's what we do if we stay spiritually thirsty my friends.
It boils down to the question of how you want to live your life. Do you want to live in an insular manner, locked down with all "the" answers? Or do you want to stay intellectually thirsty and ask questions, stay emotionally thirsty and listen, stay spiritually thirsty and care?
I challenge us all at the beginning of this New Year to stay open, stay curious, and stay engaged. Make this your 2012 resolution. Commit to it today. What do you have to lose? A stale, predictable resolution list? Please. My 2012 resolution (and I hope yours) is to stay thirsty my friends.
Happy New Year to you all!