A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Every year, at about this time, I take a pen (remember those?) and a piece of paper and write: “New Year’s Resolutions” and whatever year is bursting on the horizon. I write #1 and then I write “Quit Procrastinating.” There’s always a bunch of other stuff, but at my age most of that crap doesn’t matter. However, I’m convinced, that maybe — just maybe — if I write it down, in the new year, I will actually quit procrastinating. That’s the power of New Year’s Resolutions. It could happen. New Year’s Resolutions are that wonderful idea that we can somehow be better — if we just try. And we can. Primitive people knew this and acted accordingly.
Back in caveman days, in Europe, there were two groups of people: Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal. They were both basic knuckle-draggers, but there was one important difference. The Cro-Magnon people survived and the Neanderthals didn’t. Why? I’m convinced that the Cro-Magnon understood the concept of improvement. It’s pretty far-fetched to consider a bunch of our primitive ancestors sitting around the cave making plans to pay off the credit cards, but in caveman terms, I think that’s exactly what they did. Meanwhile, the Neanderthal hillbillies down the block were picking their noses and wondering why they never seemed to get ahead. In essence, the reason the Cro-Magnon people are the roots of our family tree and the Neanderthals are bones in a museum is that the Cro-Magnons learned how to do things better. And they realized there was this thing called tomorrow.
Here’s the deal: it’s December 31st, no year (they didn’t have them, back then.) Grog, the Cro-Magnon, is sitting around the cave. Mrs. Grog and the kids are huddled over in the corner, shivering and bitchin’ because it’s cold. Gender equality wasn’t an issue in those days, so it’s Grog’s job to go out in the snow to get wood for the fire. Grog grunts and groans and hollers and stomps around, but he does it; it’s a matter of survival. When everybody’s toasty warm again, Grog is still thinking about how much he hates going out in the cold to get wood to keep those useless kids warm. However, he’s just a little bit smarter than the average Cro-Magnon, so he understands that the snow will eventually go away and wood gathering will be a lot easier. But — and this is way more important — he also realizes that the snow is cunning, and it always comes back. Ding dong! The light goes on! Grog has put two and two together and says to himself, “Wait a minute! If I get those useless kids to gather wood all summer, when it’s easy, and pile it over in the corner of the cave, I won’t have to go out in the cold to get it when the snow comes back.” So Grog “resolves” to make the kids gather wood next year. Then, when winter rolls around again the Cave Family Grog looks pretty good. Everybody’s warm and Grog has a pile more time and energy to do other things like hunting. The family eats better and more often. At some point, Grog’s neighbours are going to see this and either figure it out or say, “Hey, Grog! You lookin’ fat, dumb and happy. What’s your secret?” Now the whole tribe is on the road to evolution because Grog’s kids are going to grow up and make their kids gather wood, too — “just like I did when I was your age.” From there, it’s only a matter of time before somebody gets the brilliant idea that it would be kinda cool if a guy from Ohio took a stroll on the moon.
That’s why we make resolutions and why — every year — I write them down. It’s not that I keep them (or even remember some of them) but we all have to try: the survival of our species depends on it.