Commonplace Thoughts of a Residual Welshman: Op eds, New Year’s Resolutions, and the Past

You might think a blogger would love op eds. “After all,” someone might say, “a blog is really just an op ed of a different sort.” Point taken. Yet, hopefully, this blog, is more, even though it purports to be from a residual Welshman, i.e. someone of Welsh heritage so distant that if he doesn’t do something about that, such as each week writing a piece called the Residual Welshman’s Blog, it would be lost.

“Is your ‘Welsh’ heritage really so worthy of preservation?” that same someone might query. “Why don’t you just do what everyone else does—move on, get on with your ‘American’ identity already. Get over this vain preservation of your romantic notions of ‘heritage.’” I’m sorry, this time point not taken.

Why? Because dealing with history, grappling with our own history, is actually not as much cathartic as it is enlightening. We must ask questions about how we got where we are, recognizing that “we” is not simply ourselves but it is the collection of those who made us who we are—our parents, our grandparents and, if we are lucky enough to remember them, our great-grandparents. Yes, as the Bible says, “we are not our own,” though I think St. Paul means what he says there (“and you are not your own” [καὶ οὐκ ἐστὲ ἑαυτῶν], 1 Cor 6:19) in a different way in that passage. There he is talking about redemption. Yet maybe I am, too, or at least what must lead up to redemption, for that same saint explains that you can’t self-redeem any more than you can self-birth or self-resurrect. We are part of a larger, human family, and that human family, like our own family, has problems.

What I am getting at, then, with this blog is the first thing we should do, if we want really to go forward into, say, the new year resolved to be better people—assuming betterment is on your mind at all—is to confront the truth of who we are, how we have become who we are, not forgetting the past but embracing it, confronting it, dealing with it, and maybe even admiring some parts of it. For there just may be some folks in our personal histories we admire. For me there certainly are.

I think a recent op ed. that I reluctantly read but basically agreed with states this pretty well.[1] It’s about confronting the truth, taking ourselves out of our psychological safe spaces and looking hard and long at ourselves and saying, “Well, this needs to change.” And some of that may come with reminding ourselves why it needs to change. Maybe it’s just a matter of being a bit overweight, so for our health, our longevity, and our role in our family or our need to be a good example to others that we need to lose weight. Or maybe it’s something even more serious, like our comportment or something we do that we know our grandparents would never have approved of. Maybe that kind of recollection of the past can urge us to make some changes. Maybe we can learn to forgive more quickly, too—I speak for myself. I know for me, in that sense, my grandparents, who taught me the “law,” as it were, also provide an example of grace.

Thus, as we get ready to launch into the new year, I hope you and I and all of us can exercise the good judgment that hopefully our forebears once did, and be tough enough on ourselves to make the changes that need to be made, while showing the grace to others that, I hope may be true for you, our grandparents once showed to us. Paradoxically it all starts, as every new beginning always does, with the past.



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