Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Gourmet Self-Creation

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Gourmet Self-Creation

Article excerpt

Our New Year is arbitrary. For Jews the year begins on the first day of the month of Tishrei on the Jewish lunar calendar. For the Chinese it's a midwinter date, also determined by a lunar calendar. Ours is based on the Gregorian calendar. But we can't help but feel it a new beginning, a time to make resolutions and redirect one's life: an almost metaphysical moment. In that spirit the New York Times ran on December 30 an op-ed by Jennifer Finney Boylan. She writes of our desire to go to "a place where you could become, at last, the author of your own life."

Author of your own life, agent of your destiny: For those downtrodden by poverty, sickness, and bad fortune, or in bondage to addictions, it's a vision we should encourage. I think of Ronnie, who used to sit on an empty five-gallon bucket at the corner of 58th and First Avenue, quietly reciting his own rap poems while he panhandled. Tormented by mental illness and addictions, he wanted, desperately wanted, to be the author of his own life. That's what he told me in so many words. Then he got very sick and wanted only to live. Then he disappeared.

Or I think of Daron, the oil field roughneck I knew who started buying motorcycles and powerboats, maxing out his credit cards, and putting himself deeply into debt. …

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