It being the first of January 2020 today, it is of course, the time for New Year’s resolutions.
In the western sphere, it seems that the custom dates back at least to the Roman’s, who made promises to the god Janus, who was the god to which the month of January was sacred.
With the coming of Christianity, it seems that many Christians prepare for the new year by making resolutions at ‘watchnights’ ( Slightly off topic, now I have found out about that, the disapproval of the Quacker Rose household in Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘Sylvia’s Lovers’ of Philip Hepburn neglecting ‘the watchnight’ to take his cousin Sylvia to a party is made clearer to me).
There is an interesting list on Wickipedia about the most common resolutions. I have made many myself in the past – and broken them more often than I should.
Here they are:
· Promise to donate to charities more often
· Try to become more assertive
· Strive to be more environmentally responsible.
· Improve mental well-being: think positive, laugh more often, enjoy life
· Improve career: perform better at current job, get a better job, establish own business
· Take a trip
· Volunteer to help others, practice life skills, use civic virtue, give to charity, volunteer to work part-time in a charity organization
· Get along better with people, improve social skills, enhance social intelligence
· Make new friends
· Spend quality time with family members
· Settle down, get engaged/get married, have kids
· Pray more, be more spiritual
· Be more involved in sports or different activities
· Spend less time on social media (such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr etc.)
· Spend more time listening to different or conflicting points of view
On the resolving ‘to be more environmentally responsible’, I can pull a self-righteous face while recalling that I did attempt to raise awareness about the dangers of overuse of plastic back in the 1990’s, and nobody seemed to believe me. I pointed out the absurdity of the use of plastic cutlery, only used once, in cafes and elsewhere. And on that, I was really delighted to see when visiting Stonehenge last summer, that recyclable cardboard based cutlery is used in the café in the visitor’s centre. But it is also true, that I should have put a lot more effort into it, so I doubt I deserve to put a self righteous mask on.
I recently tried to find cleaning produces not packaged in plastic in my local area – and found none except for a form of bleach still sold in glass bottles. After that, I wrote to the local supermarkets, asking for their plans about reducing plastic use in packaging. Needless to say, I received ambiguous – and self-righteous – responses about their plans to reduce ‘one use plastic’ by such-and-such an amount by the year so-and-so andso, and their ‘new policy of encouraging customers to bring in their own containers at the delicatessen and elsewhere.’
Given the growing (no pun intended) obesity crisis, it would seem that number four should be a priority for most people in the western sphere.
The penultimate resolution on the list is a modern problem that seems to lead to a great deal of wasted time and energy. I would probably waste a good deal more time on it myself if I was more adapt at using social media sites. As it is, I waste time reading material from various websites which I am not going to use for anything myself.
On wasted time and energy, here in the UK the last three-and-a-half years a degree of polarisation over the issue of leaving the EU has developed which has to some extent threatened traditional political alliances.
However, I would argue that these would have been challenged anyway, for various reasons bound up with political economy. Also, in the midst of the controversy, a large proportion of the population are, like me, fairly cynical about the vaunted benefits of either leaving or of staying in the EU. Still, in the current atmosphere, for politicians and journalists at least, to ‘spend more time listening to different or contradictory points of view’ sounds like a good idea. For a long time now, it has been impossible to turn on a programme dealing with current affairs without having a panel of politicians,writers or other pundits trying to shout each other down, so that it is impossible to make out what any of them are saying at all. Sometimes even the presenters shout a guest down during an interview, which seems rather startling to me when they are supposed to maintain at least the appearance of neutrality.
It would also be a good idea for me to make that resolution myself, being as opinionated as anyone on various issues, particularly to do with novels and writers and genres. Hopefully, I do try and emphasize that I don’t imagine my opinions are facts (though I wish that they were). However, perhaps I should not only emphasize this more strongly, but also try to relate more to alternative points of view.
The ‘being more organized’ strikes home particularly about writing. I keep on meaning to write a Christmas ghost story: I have been saying that I would for the last three or four years, and have never managed it. I keep on resolving to write a Halloween story, as well, and I have never got round to that.
But worse, I keep on saying that I will write a plan for my next novel. I have never got round to that. I have muddled on, knowing the beginning and the end but never the middle. I may share this approach with Stephen King, but for all that, it is a highly inefficient method. It was this that led to my discarding 40,000 words of my latest a few weeks ago, and was one of the main reasons why I probably won’t be able to have it ready for publication for another six months or so.
‘I resolve to draft out a plan to my next novel’ must be another.
On reading, I resolved last year to read more of Shakespeare’s plays. I love Shakespeare’s plays, so it is not as if it is a wearisome task for me (like reading Richardson’s ‘Pamela’ or the 1970’s bodice ripper, ‘The Flame and the Flower’ proved to be, for instance: and yes, apropos both of those, I know there are many who love them, who do not detest the rapist male leads and who do not find them as dismally reactionary about sex and class roles as I did).
With regard to Shakespeare, it is more a lack of time than inclination, but there must be a way I can stop wasting that time in other areas to use it on something far more enjoyable: not wasting time writing 20,000 or 40,000 unusable words might be a start. I did read four of Shakespeare’s plays I hadn’t read before last year, and I did a re-read of ‘Hamlet’, which I hadn’t gone back to since I did it for ‘A’ level.
Unfortunately, Wickipedia suggests: ‘In a 2014 report, 35% of participants who failed their New Year’s Resolutions admitted they had unrealistic goals, 33% of participants didn’t keep track of their progress, and 23% forgot about them; about one in 10 respondents claimed they made too many resolutions.’
Does that mean that the remaining 9% remembered and kept to their resolutions?