Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A resolution for all times

NEW YORK -- It befalls the columnist this time of year to look back and recap; to assign blame and shame, while offering the obligatory mea culpa; and, of course, to resolve.

It befalls the mature columnist (23 years and counting) to sigh in protest: Oh, must we?

Wars, tax squabbles, gas hikes, Haley Barbour, change, Russia, nukes, China, jobs, yaddayaddayadda and Julia Roberts. Haven't we traveled these pot-holed roads before? And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow? Is there anything left for which to apologize and/or perchance to predict?

As the dastardly decade of our newest millennium settles into history's tidy dustbin, death and taxes remain our most reliable antagonists. Repeatedly, we have met the enemy, and he is still us. Inarguably, there is nothing new, not even in the downloads of a WikiLeaked cable. Humans remain human and the more we know us, the less we like us. Familiarity, contempt and all that.

Nevertheless and ergo, to wit and harrumph-harrumph, herewith KP's unjaded, uncynical, appropriately abbreviated (you're welcome) list of resolutions for all times, but especially now.

Eat, Pray, Love. Sort of. Call it EPL 2.0: Eat less, pray in private, love because ... what's the alternative? For those preferring a deeper, drill-down, policy-wonkish, name-your-cuts approach, EPL can be loosely extrapolated as: Health care reform, church-state separation and human rights imperatives in the Post-Goldman Sachs World.

Permit me to elaborate, beginning with our favorite topic—eating. And of course "death panels." The thread is stronger than it might first appear.

Let's keep it simple: First, there are no death panels. There are (and should be) limits to what can be done in our futile efforts to forestall death, but medical torture in one's waning days shouldn't be among them. Given limited resources and exorbitant costs—and our apparent terror as (choose one) The Dark Abyss or heaven awaits—not everybody can have everything.

Them's the facts, and thus it is highly likely that health rationing, already practiced by insurance companies, is inevitable. You won't exactly see bureaucrats giving Caesar's thumbs-down to Granny's heart transplant, but the recently installed cap on Medicare costs will mean that certain treatments won't be reimbursed and, well, time's up.

So how does one emerge a winner in life's little lottery? Scam the system by eating less. It's that simple. By eating less, we are less likely to become fat, which leads to multiple health complications, most of which can be avoided. Shop the perimeters of the grocery store (i.e. whole foods) and eliminate sugar. Easy.

Pray there's a heaven, but do pray quietly. It can't be a mystery any longer that the God urge has a disquieting effect on certain members of the human tribe. I share the urge, but have found ways of communing that don't require converting others, invading countries or shedding infidels of their heads.

Fundamentalists, no matter what their path to glory, share a streak of intolerance that can't have much to do with any but a malevolent creator's design. Either such a creator is undeserving of worship or the worshipers have misread their scripts. Whichever the case—and to each his own—what anyone prays is no one else's business. Let's leave it there.

Finally, the most sublime for last: Love.

We are mightily confused about this matter, but it, too, is a simple thing. You won't find it in a crotch-grabbing music video. It doesn't have much to do with downloaded porn or "friending," tweeting, Facebooking or, most certainly, sexting. (O' for the days when verbs were verbs and nouns were nouns.)

At the risk of sounding preachy, God forbid, it's about giving. Yet another simple concept, we see it relatively seldom. We have the "giving season," a largely tinseled affair of extravagance and delayed debt. We give "gifts," but they are mere things, easily discarded, rarely cherished and hardly sacrificial. A few bucks handed to a store clerk don't much get to the heart of matters.

Here is giving: Listening. Sparing time. Not interrupting. Holding that thought. Leaving the last drop. Staying home. Turning it off, whatever it is. Making eye contact. Picking it up. Taking the room's temperature. Paying attention. Waiting.

More Golden Rule than heavenly virtues, but you get the drift. Do unto others and, who knows, maybe they'll make a movie starring Julia Roberts.

The alternative is surely hell.

Kathleen Parker's e-mail address is kathleenparker(at)

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