Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

My most challenging resolution

Each year, I come up with a bunch of pretty challenging New Years resolutions and I usually make good on them. In addition to the usual mundane “buy a house/get health insurance/run more often” type of self-helpish to-do-list items, I try to list some self-helpish abstract ones that address my character flaws more directly. For example, last year I resolved to learn the differences between my boundaries (good) and my limitations (bad).

This year I would like to stop worrying (or obsessing) about other people’s advantages because it interferes with my happiness. That, in turn, makes me cranky, which is bad. It’s such an easy trap to become envious and so enamoured with the riches we see all around that we lose track of our own gifts. Every minute we spend thinking about how easy our neighbors are riding makes our own trip a little bit harder. I would like to free myself from that.

Yet in America, and especially in New York, Envy is big business. It’s peddled in ways both obvious and subtle all the time, every day. From gigantic billboards with airbrushed faces and bodies clinging to cologne bottles to that little message tagged to the end of emails that reads “Sent from my Crackberry.” It's bad, dangerous stuff and you have to be really strong to shut it all out and remain focused on what’s really important.

The good news: I am, in fact, really strong. So I can do this.


My first thought was that a little bit of envy can also be called "motivation." When I see how well other people are doing, it makes me want to work harder and do better for myself and my family, which is good, right?

I think that is true as long as we keep things in perspective. Many of our envious thoughts are quite simply inaccurate. We have no way to judge how difficult or easy someone else's lot may be and we never have all the facts. Let's don't judge one another without the facts, please.

What seems to dog me even more is my tendency to lose track of my own position and to forget my own advantages and consequently not use them to best effect. That's where the real waste happens.

Keep the eyes wide-open and know when generosity is merited instead of meanness. That's always good policy. At the same time, be aware of what's going on in my own pot of stew and how that can can get me where I want to go.


p.s. Is that ad telling us that the cologne will make us like the guy or make him like us? You know, really like us...

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