In true, smart-alecky philosopher fashion, I’d like to start this post by pointing out that chopping up time into units is just something humans do so we can practice better self-management. The whole idea of there being a beginning and an end to something on a specific date is artificial, even contrived. Circle the globe and you’ll find at least a handful of other dates for the new year to begin. Hell, according to some ancient calendars, the universe should have caved in on itself by now. From a cosmic perspective, the notion that we’ll wake up on January 1st and find things different, just because it happens to be January 1st, is a more than a little silly. There, cynicism dispensed.
Now’s the part where I admit that, despite good reason, I still make resolutions for New Year’s. Part of me still believes that my trajectory in life is a little like doodles on an Etch-a-Sketch, and I get to give it a good, hearty shake when the clock strikes midnight. Some of my resolutions are frivolous and typical:
- I want to have abs like a Spice Girl circa 1993.
- I plan to meditate myself into oblivion.
- I shall sew my own clothes.
- I will eat less refined sugar.
Others are more serious, and heart-felt. I really do want to do something useful, something helpful, something different. Something that doesn’t revolve around swearing off shopping for Doc Martens and swearing at inanimate objects. These are the promises that I’m much more likely to keep, although they usually take more than a year (or two, or three) to accomplish.
Ever wonder where the whole notion of making New Year’s resolutions came from? Ever look up the word and search for its origins? Just me? I’ve always thought it was funny that “resolution” and “resolute” have the same etymology, seeing as people are usually not very resolute in keeping resolutions. The word “resolution” itself used to mean something about breaking things into more manageable chunks, or simplifying them. Maybe the big problem with resolutions isn’t that we make them, but rather that we tend to make them in such a way that complicates our lives, adding layers of obligation and complication to what’s already pretty hectic. “Resolution” in the traditional sense does what philosophy does on a regular basis- it peels away the excess so we can really see what’s underneath. It’s a call to think deeper, not bigger, to focus on quality over quantity. It’s a tall order when we’re hung over and staring down the barrel of a grey winter, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to get done in one day, or in one year. You can shake the Etch-a-Sketch anytime you want to. It’s a practice that’s calorie free, less expensive than a gym membership, and generally speaking, it fulfills the whole “make the world a better place” requirement.
Happy New Year, everyone, whether it’s today, tomorrow, or sometime over the next 365 days of human-constructed time. May your resolutions bring you peace, happiness and enlightenment- and a much-needed dose of simplicity.