A nationwide Gallup Poll taken in the United States towards the end of 1953 found that of all New Year's resolutions recorded among some 20,000,000 people, the resolve to "better my character" topped all the rest. This particular aspiration has for years been found to be the most widespread among those making known their New Year's resolutions. No one could possibly make this resolve with purely selfish motives. It bears witness to a natural desire coming from deep within, to join with all nature in the universal urge to growth that comes in the period of preparation at the year's end.
If we needed proof that mankind is a part of nature, this is one of a multitude of such proofs. And nature, in the broadest sense, embraces not only the visible phenomena immediately around us, but all of the universe — for where are you going to draw the line?
Man has, in fact, been called the mirror of the universe. "He is in little all the sphere," was the 17th Century George Herbert's view of man's place in nature. Thomas Hardy wrote in his notebook that on meeting a fellow human being he could not escape the impression that here was a focusing point of the universe coming towards him. A visible body with analogous parts and functions; out of the mouth came words that bespoke the mysterious workings of mind; in the eyes shone a light that conveyed something of the spirit within, motivating the whole.
The Hebrews illumined their concept of humanity with the teaching of Adam Kadmon, the Heavenly Man, who was man transfigured and expanded in all his parts to embrace universality.
We are all gifted with imagination, and no doubt have moments when we can entertain this grandiose conception; and then it fades, and we come down to our homespun, very ordinary selves of everyday, and wonder where the connection is. But just because we have had that moment of vision, we know that in ourselves there is, deep inside, a oneness with the universe and all our fellow-beings. That is why we feel, especially at New Year's, something nobler than our smaller selves stirring for expression, and we make a resolution to 'better our characters.' Thus we have not lost our link with the Divine Will encompassing all, but feel it working in us like a potent and redeeming leaven.
Back of our resolve is the thought that the world needs to be made a better world. We have to do something about it. What have we to work with? Just an instrument with a pair of willing hands, just a character, such as it is, that we want to make better. But something in us knows that within that drab exterior is enshrined a small portion of the great whole. This small universe which is ourselves, is the part we are responsible for. It is all our own to work with. We can do anything we like with it. So in going to work on ourselves we are doing something — the best thing we can do — to raise and ennoble the whole of life — even universal life.
(From Sunrise magazine, February 1954; copyright © 1954 Theosophical University Press)