30 December 2013

Continuing Resolutions List for 2014 and Beyond

Every year I make New Year's resolutions and most the time I forget what they were by the end of January. What I need is a follow-up  plan and some kind of rating system to measure my progress. Benjamin Franklin at the age of twenty had four resolutions...To become more frugal, to become more honest, to become more industrious, and to avoid slandering. Out of these four resolutions he developed thirteen virtues to concentrate on one at a time. They are:

1.)  Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2.)  Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversations.
3.)  Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4.)  Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5.)  Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing.
6.)  Industry: Lose not time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7.)  Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly.
8.)  Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9.)  Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think you deserve.
10.) Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habitation.
11.) Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles or accidents common or unavoidable.
12.) Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your  own or another's peace or reputation.
13.) Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Franklin's list seems pretty good if not a bit stodgy but it is a bit incomplete and doesn't match up directly with the Boy Scout  Law that I memorized as a youth but probably didn't obey as well as I should have. You know how it is when you are young and besides, that was back in the 60's. Enough said.

Each country has a slightly different version of the original list of virtues made by Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scout movement. The list was a bit militaristic in its expanded form but that is understandable since he was a British officer of high rank. Nevertheless according to the Boy Scouts of America, a Scout should be:

1.)  Trustworthy,
2.)  Loyal,
3.)  Helpful,
4.)  Friendly,
5.)  Courteous,
6.)  Kind,
7.)  Obedient,
8.)  Cheerful,
9.)  Thrifty,
10.) Brave,
11.) Clean,
12.) Reverent.

Baden-Powell is said to have generated the list after studying various codes of conduct from around the world. He wanted it to be positive and uplifting and not negative and foreboding. He drew inspiration for the Scout Law from the Bushido code of the Japanese Samurai,  laws of honor of the American Indians, the code of chivalry of European knights, and even the traditions of the Zulu warriors that he had fought against in Africa. He chose a positive a set of affirmations, in contrast to Old Testament style, "thou shalt nots". The two lists, even if combined as much as possible, still did not give me exactly what I was looking for. I finally found my answer in the middle of the flag of India. You never know where you are going to find what you are looking for and it seems like persistence and determination are the keys to searching for something just as they are the keys to success in almost everything else.

In the center of the flag of India there is a wheel with twenty-four spokes. It is a form of the Dharmachakra which is one of the oldest known Buddhist symbols. In its simplest form, it looks like a ship's wheel with eight spokes and is known as the "Wheel of Dharma". It represents the Buddha's "Path to Enlightenment".  In Buddhism, "dharma" signifies the "cosmic law and order" and "chakra" means "wheel" or "vortex" and signifies that there is life in movement and death in stagnation.

The twenty-four spokes of the chakra on the Indian flag called the "Ashoka Chakra" comes from the base of a statue of four lions facing back to back that sat atop a pillar at Sarna, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It was put there about the year 250 B.C by the Emperor Ashoka to mark the spot where Buddha first proclaimed his gospel of peace and emancipation to the four quarters of the universe. After Buddha achieved enlightenment at Gaya, he came to Sarnath. There He found five of his disciples who had previously abandoned him. He preached his first sermon to them, explaining the Dharmachakra. This is the motif taken up by Emperor Ashoka and portrayed at the base of the statue of the lions on top of the pillar. A graphic representation of the statue was adopted as the official emblem of India in 1950 and can be found on Indian currency and legal documents.

The 24 spokes on the Ashoka Dharmachakra represent the following qualities or "virtues":

1.)  Love
2.)  Courage
3.)  Patience
4.)  Peacefulness
5.)  Magnanimity
6.)  Goodness
7.)  Faithfulness
8.)  Gentleness
9.)  Selflessness
10.) Self-Control
11.) Self Sacrifice
12.) Truthfulness
13.) Righteousness
14.) Justice
15.) Mercy
16.) Gracefulness
17.) Humility
18.) Empathy
19.) Sympathy
20.) Spiritual Knowledge
21.) Moral Values
22.) Spiritual Wisdom
23.) The Fear of God
24.) Faith or Belief or Hope

In my opinion this is a very nice list and is just what I was looking for. Then I had to come up with a rating system. I didn't know if I should use a simple binary thumbs up or thumbs down or something more sophisticated perhaps, like the five star rating of items on Amazon.com. Then I thought that the scale of one to ten might be better since it would lend itself to numerical comparisons from week to week, month to month, and year to year. I finally decided on a scale of zero to ten with five as the beginning median around which I could plot distributions.

Finally, I had to make some rating criteria for each item in order to be as consistent and as objective as possible. I must also develop a procedure for documenting the pluses and the minuses of the occurrences on a timely basis without making it too complicated. The more I work on this the more interesting it gets. I am happy that I initiated this project. Actually it was the Greek philosopher Plato who got me started. He equated virtue with truth. Benjamin Franklin gave me an example to get me going. Robert Baden-Powell gave me a boost, and Gautama Buddha gave me some great ideas. After all, the official motto of India is: "Satyameva Jayate"..."Truth Alone Triumphs".

Happy New Year wherever you may be and may your New Year be newer than ever before.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.