Looking across the internet for a perfect Facebook status quote this morning was a wholly unsatisfying endeavor. It seemed the only choices out there related to the new year were the cynical (Mark Twain and Jay Leno), the overused (song lyrics), and the sappy (all those “author unknown”s that you just know were harvested from knock-off greeting cards). Still not original enough to generate an idea myself, I instead tapped into my vast reserves of literary knowledge – which is to say that I pulled something from the book that I just finished less than twelve hours earlier.
That book was 11/22/63 by Stephen King, and even though I technically wrapped the final page before midnight last night, I am counting it as my first read of the new year. Here’s the quote:
For a moment, everything was clear, and when that happens you see that the world is barely there at all. Don’t we all secretly know this? It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dreamclock chiming beneath a mystery-glass we call life. Behind it? Below it and around it?…A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark.
A little grim for inspiring friends and family at the dawn of a new day? Perhaps, but I think the message is clear and I stand by my choice. Anyone who knows me well will be unsurprised by this, but I give 11/22/63 two thumbs up and an unqualified hearty recommendation to all to read it.
The subjects of King’s latest triumph, in case the title’s reference is lost on you, are the Kennedy assassination, time travel, and the ever-popular theoretical alternate – more commonly known as “what if?” Come to think of it, this is a downright Christmasy topic, explored and celebrated every year through such pop culture favorites as It’s a Wonderful Life (or the VeggieTales homage, It’s a Meaningful Life) and the countless adaptations of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Why not mix it up a little with Stephen King’s noirish two cents?
The question is a tantalizing one: What would I do if I could go back and change one earth-shattering, self-defining moment in my life? Maybe it would be a world event (a presidential election? the BP oil spill? 9/11?); the book has some interesting theories about those. Maybe it would be a seemingly more attainable personal moment (hooking up or breaking up with that one person? making a big move home, or from it? going to college, or quitting?). It makes for a meaty journal entry, trust me.
In considering all of this, I came to a potentially confusing but important realization: I do have that opportunity, and its name is the present.
I can’t control my circumstances and I can’t know what’s coming, but I can be smart about what I do today. I can make decisions with legacy and the good of others in mind. I can heed the wisdom of Steven Pressfield in The War of Art and prepare myself for the inevitable resistance that comes against positive change. I can pray to the One Who does know what’s coming for insight and the fortitude to reengage with my destiny. In short, I can minimize my future regrets so that the what ifs become obsolete.
This is not a new revelation, I know that, and it is natural to think such visions on New Year’s Day. Yet I also know that vision has the potential to be revolutionary in the truest sense of the word, if I have the character to see it through. I know that is part of what God means about having a hope and a future for me (Jeremiah 29:11).
So I guess I have some New Year’s resolutions after all:
I resolve to treat decisions as if I have jumped to them from the future with great stakes hanging in the balance.
I resolve to be present and in the present.
And most of all, I resolve to dance in defiance of the dark…with gusto.