New Year Revolutions
Wednesday, 1st January 2014
It seems so simple. Less spite, frowning, worrying and eating; more loving, smiling, acceptance and exercise. Easy. The depressing thing about all the solutions I come up with at New Year is they’re re-solutions. Tried a hundred times before. Which would suggest, as far as solutions go, they’re crap.
This First of January, starting fresh, New Year, new beginnings, new me, ritual reboot is becoming ever more worn each year. The veneer covering its inevitable failure wears thin as experience tells me the tree decorations will last longer.
But then I’m not alone. In a Bristol University study of 3,000 people, 88% said their New Year resolutions failed. And, apart from the people who just resolved to be more positive when reporting results to surveys, one wonders, for how long even the successful resolutions held? Did the 360 who triumphed become happier, more graceful, thinner for the rest of their lives? Did they really become the people they wanted to be? It seems unlikely as the problem our pledges are trying to solve are, at their core, existential. We’re simply not happy with who we are, the way we are, with what we’ve got. I’m not the me I want to be and, almost inexorably, neither are you. This all comes sharply into focus with the New Year resolution.
Our endemic failure does not go unnoticed by the world of commerce. For one like me, who still has the body of a twenty-year-old, a twenty year old Routemaster bus, January is the cruellest month. It’s when the advertising industry goes into overdrive just to taunt and reprimand me for my shortcomings: too fat, too out of shape, too badly dressed, too, well, me.
And it’s not just the diet, gym, holiday and cosmetic industries that feed on our self-hatred but, since for modern technosapien, everything from our phones to our coffee-makers are an extension of ourselves, the vast majority of global retail relies on our burning desire to keep upgrading, to be something else; monetizing our frustration with the slow progress of evolution.
We want our evolution ‘to go’, here and now; take-away human development: instantly bigger, better stronger, wiser, sexier more powerful. Who’s got the patience to wait a million generations to develop a limb that’ll swizz the milk in our cappuccinos? Just one week before New Year, we got our Christmas upgrades. We were enhanced with a number of presents which, at best, improved our lives and, at worst, we’ve lost the bloody receipt. So why, by New Year, are we already punishing ourselves? Are we just never happy being who we are?
Like most problems with the human condition, it’s undoubtedly in our DNA. The same naked ambition which has propelled our species into the obergruppenführer of the planet, that compels us to want to be better, prevents us from ever being content with where we are. We’re sure contentment exists, we’ve experienced it in momentary bursts and yet, long term, it eludes us.
Of course I could view the New Year resolution as a celebration of positivity and the determination for self-improvement. But honestly, all I see is a dispiriting tradition of conceding our inadequacies, indulging in self-flagellation and admitting the frailty of our will power.
So the real problem might be my glass half empty attitude. Perhaps it’s all in my mind. Maybe I should seek help, but in my opinion anyone who goes to see a psychiatrist needs their head examined.
All I can really do then is try to change the way I see things. Undertake to give up being such a miserable git.
So this New Year I have only one resolution. To put my pessimism and misanthropy away and embrace the beautiful nature of mankind; this wonderful creature who constantly strives for perfection, and cannot rest until it’s achieved. I resolve to love this, as Hamlet put it, ‘beauty of the world! The paragon of animals,’ this ingenious, inventive, adaptable, amazing, self-perpetuating, brilliant, handsome, creature called man. At least until my annual fight with that bastard jobsworth at the Christmas tree recycling unit.