Clyde Kilby’s Eleven Resolutions: Timely and Timeless

Dr. Clyde S. Kilby, former professor of English at Wheaton College and renowned scholar on “the Inklings,” developed the following eleven resolutions for daily life. He shared those resolutions with his lucky students every year by copying them into his course syllabi. Rather than resolutions for the body (get fit, lose weight, eat better, sleep more), they are resolutions for the care and feeding of the soul. I decided to share Kilby’s resolutions today as a reminder to myself and my readers to take a deep breath, thank God for this season of spring, and try to make this day, this moment–the only one we’re really promised–count for something good.

  1. I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the “child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder.”
  1. At least once a day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet travelling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.
  1. Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligence which, as Aristotle said of Greek drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think this will save me from the cynicism expressed by Bertrand Russell before his death, when he said:  “There is darkness without, and when I die there will be darkness within.  There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment and then nothing.”
  1. I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worth potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parenthesis in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual maturity.
  1. I shall not turn my life into a thin straight line which prefers abstractions to reality. I shall know what I am doing when I abstract, which of course I shall often have to do.
  1. I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to.  Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.
  1. I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person.  I shall not then be concerned to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are.  I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their “divine, magical, terrifying, and ecstatic” existence.
  1. I shall turn frequently to imaginative things such as good literature and good music, preferably as C. S. Lewis suggests, an old book and timeless music.
  1. I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggest, “fulfill the moment as the moment.” I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is now.
  1. If for nothing more than the sake of a change of view, I shall assume my ancestry to be from heaven rather than the caves.
  1. Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by an Architect who calls Himself Alpha and Omega.

(Clyde S. Kilby, 1902-1986)

Handling the Madness in Rural Oklahoma

Living in this corner of America during a pandemic means the following:

My life has only changed in that the powers-that-be continue to make broad, sweeping, sometimes unconstitutional decisions about what I can or cannot do and where I can or cannot go. (Reminder to my fellow Americans: Our constitutional rights, including Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Religion, do not go away just because people are sick and scared. Beware a government who takes away your rights “for your own good.” Our church went to online services without the need of a governor mandate because they have common sense and don’t want the elderly in our church exposed to possible illness. Elon Musk, Ford, and GM started working on making ventilators without the government demanding that they do so; the same is true for distilleries who are now making hand sanitizer and places like our local t-shirt company who is now working on masks for healthcare professionals. To paraphrase and add to an old chestnut: America is great because she is good–but only if her people are allowed the freedom and the trust to be so.)

I will now be conducting my college English I and II classes online. Since I teach reading and writing, it isn’t too much of a stretch. That library job I was so excited about still exists, though we shut our doors to the public. I must say, the way people rushed in to check out books like we were the Walmarts with the last rolls of toilet paper on the planet did my heart good. Literacy lives, people!

Living in rural Oklahoma during a pandemic means:

Nature hasn’t been told there is a pandemic. Grass is growing, morels are begging to be hunted, and flowers bloom and bloom and bloom. I forgot that my Irish skin needs to be slowly coaxed into a suntan and got my first serious sunburn of the season yesterday when I sat outside for an hour on a bench (yes, at a safe distance), visiting with my lonely 84-year old widowed neighbor after taking her some lasagna. I’ve wandered over to see my folks a couple of times this week, and they are busy cutting grass, hunting morels, and watching those flowers bloom and bloom and bloom. The red wasps are out (devil insects!) and I’ve joined the fat furry carpenter bees in fighting them off. The bees chase them relentlessly, and if any get past, I am ready and armed with long-range wasp spray. We shan’t rest until every crimson demon and its unnecessarily aggressive stinging is vanquished!

Instead of stress-eating, I’ve been stress-hiking–through the acres of land surrounding my own, up and down hiking trails, down country roads and back. Alone, there is no one who shouts “social distancing!” at me or asks me to ring a dang bell when I approach (that’s the latest suggestion from the city when using their trails–absurd). I march around the countryside 5 to 7 miles a day, praying out loud, listening to great audiobooks, whispering new possible book ideas to myself. I come home exhausted and sometimes covered in ticks, but my mind is clear and I’m fine.

Really, I’m fine. I hope you are too, in your corner of the world.