Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Depending whether they are the object of considered thought or the target of intellectual snootiness, New Year’s resolutions are for some functional and for others frivolous. There is also the austere option that if one is lucky enough to have overseen enough of them, the New Year is void of any partiality one way or the other, just another day.

I happen to welcome the opportunity for review. It’s part of my oddity as a cautious person. I don’t imagine that I will in an instant formulate a cure of my inborn shortcomings, nor even that I will advance myself by any amount of determination. The process of development I have learned is like any other arrangement in life, one feature at a time often by unimpressive spreads. The particles which define the path to inspiration are miniscule. This is not about winning the lottery. It’s a progression. But eventually one has to start somewhere.

It is just bad business to confine one day a year to a review of one’s life. But let’s face it there usually isn’t a great deal happening on New Year’s Day, so why not use it for starters? And closer to the truth, most likely it will be the only day in a long stretch of succeeding days which will lend itself so conveniently to the project. How quickly the ceremony of Spring overtakes us after a dark Winter, projecting us towards a frenzied Summer, at last lulled by Autumnal fires; and before we know it, we’re back where we began, and with what to report?

The closest word I know to “resolution” is “resolute” which unfortunately has the dominant theme of steadfast and undaunted, not exactly the fodder of choice of the middling person who’s just trying to make it through life without a lot of anguish. No, if we’re going to derive any advantage whatsoever from this business of New Year’s Resolutions we have to tone it down or we’re sunk at the outset. The word “resolve”, with its overtone of earnestness, preserves the original meaning while at the same time thinning it by infusing it with the further element of conversion or disintegration, as in “The matter resolved into something different”. To my thinking, this more neatly captures the quintessence of what we’re about when making New Year’s Resolutions. It is tautological that if one remains the same, nothing will change.

One must first recapitulate, recover the striking features of one’s life which make it tangible enough to sort through without getting completely lost in the minutiae. Given a bit of time, I think we all know what is good or bad for us. Asking ourselves this uncomplicated question is a blunt tool to forge our future. However having the courage to answer it requires a sharp mind. In matters of personal destiny there is no room for prevarication. And if you’re getting on in years, or if you admit that perhaps you haven’t done everything as you should have done, there is no scope for wasting time.

Once we have isolated what we know to be the answer to our riddles (that was the easy part), it requires no small conviction to put things into motion. Whether it is habit or merely inertia I do not know, but getting past our inflexible behaviour involves considerable strength of mind. There is of course the additional factor that we haven’t any assurance where the new path may lead us. As it turns out that is half the fun of it!

New Year’s Resolutions have not only the advantage of purifying our beliefs, but also the effect of emphasizing our aspirations. At this initial stage of contemplation such views are little more than hypothetical conjectures. Most will not experience anything as dramatic as a life-changing event, but whimsical reflection can at least fuel some profitable alteration over time. There may be consequences which require more than metaphysical change. Sacrifices abound in matters of the soul!

I believe that New Year’s Resolutions are all about reaching plateaux, some up, some down. That at least is one significant difference from climbing a rock face – namely, there isn’t but one direction to go. Sometimes life is begging us to go the other way, to stop pushing ourselves onward and upward, to stop pushing ourselves at all. As I say, there are costs and losses in doing so, insofar as having to forfeit something which may once have been very dear to you. But that is merely part and parcel of the mental awareness which resolutions demand. And in this game of life, it is never “winner takes all”.

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