Esquire magazine used to feature a series of interviews with celebrities at the end of each year titled, “What I’ve Learned.” Maybe they still do. Regardless, as we enter a new year in a still-new millennium (which can only get better), here is some of what I’ve learned — as discovered in my notebook scribblings:
If I had it to do all over again, I would probably just make different mistakes.
Acquiring wisdom is more valuable than acquiring possessions, though you have to pay a price for both.
It is impossible to “win” an argument.
It is impossible to “change” someone’s mind, but you can, and should, speak your mind.
A beautiful mind always outshines a beautiful body.
Beauty is the soul’s favorite food. Love is the heart’s. Wisdom is the mind’s. The key is to avoid spiritual malnutrition.
Loving is not the same as having. To love, you have to let go.
Some people won’t respect you no matter what.
Some won’t respect you unless they fear you.
Some won’t respect you until you earn it.
Some will give you time to earn it.
Some will respect you no matter what.
War is always a lose-lose proposition.
Truth cannot be killed and cannot be contained forever. It is stronger than all efforts to put it under lock and key.
The only dangerous idea is that ideas are dangerous.
Many are ruled by their emotions. Most are ruled by rules. A precious few are governed by reason.
If “courage is the mastery of fear, not the absence of fear” (spotted on a Post-It note on a mirror in the film How Do You Know), then faith must be the mastery of doubt, not the absence of doubt.
Absolute certainty is not faith. It is usually a form of mental illness.
People who see themselves as God’s deputy sheriffs always bear a striking resemblance to Barney Fife.
Mainstream religious institutions are the spiritual equivalent of grammar school — in other words, it’s a good start.
There are two kinds of people: the spiritually settled and the spiritually restless. One is not necessarily better than the other.
After two millennia, we’re not much closer to understanding what Jesus was trying to tell us.
Inner peace isn’t the goal. It’s the result.
And here’s some of what I learned from others:
“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” — the Dalai Lama
“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” — Joseph Campbell
“You were made and set here to give voice to your astonishment.” — Annie Dillard
“Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” — Albert Einstein
“It’s curious that we only believe as deep as we live.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Truth is an eternal conversation about things that matter, conducted with passion and discipline.” — Parker Palmer
“Dialogue is a conversation from one open-hearted person to another open-hearted person.” — Martin Buber
And finally, the Zen Calendar quote I always carry in my wallet, which I’m sure you’ll agree is good advice any time of year:
“Do not be afraid of the true dragon.”