A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
It’s January 1st, 2013, and for the last few days people have been asking me why I always make New Year’s Resolutions. You have to understand I haven’t actually kept a New Year’s Resolution since the winter of ‘71/’72 when I resolved never to trust Linda what’s-her-name again. I didn’t, she did and we both ended up spending Valentine’s Day separately toying with the idea of joining a nunnery – for different reasons, obviously. Since then, it’s been a rapidly accelerating litany of make ‘em and break ‘em years that continues to this very day. Even as we speak, I’ve already had a cigarette, done no abdominal crunches and eaten the last brownie. All that’s left now is to have a beer with the Rose Bowl and hurl the F-bomb at the television set when Stanford loses. However, even though my Resolution record is, at best, shoddy, New Year’s Resolutions are not simply an Express Bus to failure. They have a deeper meaning.
New Year’s Resolutions are based on that one essential bit of information that none of us can deny. We’re still here. Despite the epic blundering of most politicians, the herculean efforts of do-gooders everywhere and the Ancient Mayans, we’re still standing. Quite frankly, if you’re old enough to read this, you’ve already survived enough man made mayhem to scare the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse back into their box. And that’s not including all the impending doom that the relentless media has been foisting on us ever since the American Midwest mistakenly decided Phil Donahue was a journalist. In fact, in my lifetime, there hasn’t been five minutes that anybody but a Playboy Bunny would call peace and quiet. Let’s face it, folks: we’re tough, and that alone should leave us awash in optimism. After all, when we’ve been through what we’ve been through, what the hell else can they throw at us?
This is exactly what New Year’s Resolutions are: a tough guys’ look at the world. They tell everybody that, despite rumours to the contrary, our world isn’t on the verge of collapse. We believe we have enough time to make things better. And despite what looks like overwhelming odds, we’re going to take the time and trouble to try.
This single stubborn optimism has led to all the marvels of human history. Beethoven didn’t just jump out of bed one Tuesday and write the Fifth Symphony. He plodded along for months, under the assumption he was going to have time to get it right. Picasso would have never picked up a paint brush if he didn’t believe in his place in history. He’d have spent his days in cheap Spanish tavernas, drinking wine and chasing women. Why not? There’s no future in striving for creative immortality if there’s no future to reward it. Nor is there any reason to exercise, program the PVR or tell yourself you’re going to phone grandma more than once a year. Why do any of the above if your modus operandi is one day at a time?
In the cold dark soul of 4 o’clock in the morning, we might not be optimistic, but we certainly believe in the future. If we didn’t, we’d be sleeping like lowland gorillas — with nothing on our minds but a sloping forehead.
So admit it: even if you don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, you’re an optimist. Why not just bite the bullet and make a few…privately? See what happens. You may be like me and screw them all up every year, but, at least, nobody can say you gave up without a fight. Besides, you might be good at it, and this time next year (if the 2013 edition of the Mayans don’t get us) you could be kicked back, pulling in your belt a few notches, or trying to decide whether to spend the rest of the winter in Cancun or Maui. You never know, but it doesn’t happen unless you try.