Did Gandhi make New Year’s Resolutions?

Statue of Mohandas Gandhi in JMU's East Campus Library

I wonder if Mohandas Gandhi ever made New Year’s resolutions?

For most of us, when January 1 rolls around, we think about New Year’s resolutions. For some of us, however, resolutions aren’t really resolutions  at all; they’re more like wishes — good wishes, but wishes nonetheless. Most of us have all sorts of nice things we’d like to see change — perhaps our lifestyles, attitudes, kindnesses, accomplishments, and many things we never quite got around to accomplishing during the prior year. Wishes, but not resolutions.

According to Webster, resolutions aren’t wishes, dreams or hopes; resolutions are ideas, tasks, jobs, etc., to which we are resolved. Resolve. That’s the key — and that’s not a wish. Resolve is the determination to accomplish something.  As I was reading Webster’s definition, I was struck by how many definitions of “resolution,” actually reflect this notion. In music, resolution occurs when two dissonant notes come together to form a consonant note. In medicine, it’s the reduction of infection. In optics, it’s the ability to distinguish between two wavelengths. In photography, it’s the sharpness of a digital image.

Mohandas Gandhi, whose words inspire our Be the Change campaign, probably never made a New Year’s resolution.  Instead, he believed “action expresses priorities.” In other words, resolutions accomplish change.

Wishes are nice, but wishes often go no further than our thoughts. The difference is in our resolve. I love the music definition of resolution because so often change requires overcoming something — finding and harnessing the “dissonance” before reaching the resolution. In life, dissonance abounds: poverty, sickness, political unrest, inequity, injustice, illiteracy, sadness, ugliness, cruelty, disappointment. It’s a long, long list. There is never a shortage of problems that need to be resolved. Seeing those — as in the optic definition — is critical. Seeing but not wishing away problems is the first step in a resolution to change something. When such vision and understanding come into focus — when, as in photography, the image of the problem is sufficiently sharp — then resolve is required.

In so many of the actions of our Be the Change people, I see resolve. They didn’t wish for something nice to happen; they resolved to see that it did. Their resolutions had little to do with their own comfort, health and success, but almost exclusively with the welfare of others. Their brand of selfless resolution is inspiring. This year, if you follow this blog, you’ll read about more and more incredible JMU individuals who have resolved to change the world.  I hope you’ll also get a sense of their dedication, their commitment to change, and their determination to make true and lasting resolutions that produce change.

Later this month, I’m going to share some remarkable insights by one of our Be the Changers.  For a twenty-something, he has some profound thoughts that you won’t want to miss.  You’ll also read about new JMU alums out in the job market and how they are making it in an economy that may or may not be improving. And we’ll feature more updates on work that our current Be the Changers are doing. We’ll also be adding more people to our Be the Change website. So if you know of someone, let us know.

While January’s arrival may be a  good time traditionally to resolve to change something in our lives or in the lives of others, January is entirely arbitrary — and, I suspect, somewhat counter-productive — because as good as we may be in wishing at the first of every year, it’s that more important step — resolving — that produces real change. And resolve does not require a new calendar year or month or decade.

So, while we all begin January, let me challenge you: What can you resolve to do to change the world?

Think about it.

You can read more about Mohandas Gandhi at the website of JMU’s Gandhi Center: http://www.jmu.edu/gandhicenter/ Here, you’ll also be able to read about the statue of Gandhi, a gift from the nation of India, that graces the lobby of JMU’s beautiful East Campus Library.


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

One Response to Did Gandhi make New Year’s Resolutions?

  1. Pingback: Resolutions: Revisiting Twelve New Year Wishes | Mirth and Motivation

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