Posts Tagged ‘Resolutions’

By Peter Stern, Philosophy Faculty

Don’t! Don’t rush into writing out your New Year’s Resolutions just yet–and it’s already January the 10th. That’s right: don’t rush into this annual very momentous occasion. For writing resolutions ain’t that easy. Not if you really take doing resolutions seriously. And if you don’t, why do it at all, I ask myself, in woe and wonder, and with charity and good wishes for all and sundry, both for you and your loved ones, and maybe, just maybe, for your putative enemies as well.

The Sermon on the Mount Carl Bloch, 1890I mention enemies because with the new year beginning, shouldn’t we, even if only for a second or two, consider once again the wisdom of the famous admonitions contained in that most magnificent recording of resolutions, the Sermon on the Mount? Sure we should. So there we read about your enemies that if they take a whack at your left cheek, turn and offer them the one of your right; and if they take your shirt, offer them your down vest, heavy wool socks, and fleece lined overcoat. That’s right. I didn’t make this up. I couldn’t. Surely you’ll agree these would be challenging New Year’s Resolutions we all should make. Yet most likely most won’t and, in all candor, you can probably include me in this reprobate group.

So you can see already, can you not, that making resolutions isn’t for sissies, or to be taken lightly, as though you’re looking through a sparkling clean glass recently taken fresh from the dishwasher. No. Resolutions create an enormous conundrum, a mind numbing riddle, lodged inside an outsized enigma, forcing us to consider anew some of the most brain boggling metaphysical mysteries known to the human heart. For instance, consider this my very dear New Year’s Tingling Turtle: do or don’t you have free will? No, not free love; free will?

Well, what’s your answer? Shouldn’t you have already –meaning many years ago–wrestled with this all important question and have at your finger tips or, if you prefer, at the very outer most tip of your tongue, some reasonably coherent answer to this age old puzzle? Of course you should. OK, then, what is it, exactly? Assuming you do remember your conclusion, now forced to think about it again, how confident are you that it’s coherent and compelling? You see the point here is that if you’re not sure you have free will, then most likely–no, for sure, you’re wasting your time even thinking about making New Year’s Resolutions.

Indeed the very idea of a resolution really makes no sense since the absence of free will leaves your actions determined, meaning you, as you, never can resolve anything. Your actions have already been plotted out for you, without you ever having been consulted, and without you ever knowing the plotting had already taken place.

free will

Now I hope you can see more clearly why I said you shouldn’t rush into making New Year’s Resolutions. You absolutely need to consider this free will issue more carefully before sitting down and scribbling four or five or ten or whatever number of New Year’s Resolutions you were figuring you’d like to make so you can be like everyone else.

And here’s another little mystery you might want to spend a few minutes reflecting on. What if–that is, just suppose for a moment–you’re thinking one of your resolutions involves helping a spouse, or significant other, or potential spouse, or possible significant other with a challenging task–say, like losing weight. Sounds great, does it not? What could be more loving, more helpful than lending a hand to a person you feel so much love for achieve the arduous and very laudable task of losing 15 pounds of ugly, cholesterol saturated fat? Answer: absolutely nothing. I mean it’s a life prolonging goal. Less fat, less weight, equals longer life. Q.E.D.

Well, my dear, high minded, utterly altruistic, Turtlelet, what if your spouse, or significant other, or your favorite offspring, or friend, or sibling, or parent, or even grandparent can’t make a resolution to lose weight because they no more have free will than do you? In other words, they can’t resolve to lose weight just as you can’t. And any effort indeed every effort on your part to assist them in losing pounds will only create loads—I mean—loads and loads of bad blood. So don’t make your New Year’s Resolution to try and help anyone lose weight, for you’ll only make that person hugely dislike you for your host of altruistic efforts. If you want to keep your loved ones close, don’t volunteer to help them lose weight. Please, trust me on this one.

Where does this leave me? I’m sorry to say—in the soup. I’ve got some hum dinger resolutions I’ve been hoping to share with you, but so far, I’m hesitant. One side of me tells me to make the resolutions, and the other—the thoughtful philosophic side—strongly argues I should take my time, as should you, big hearted, well meaning, hugely dedicated newly resolved 2014 Reader of our wonderfully friendly and provocative Turtle for Flaneurs.

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By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

To start 2013, I wrote on the Flaneur’s Turtle about New Year’s Resolutions. In part, I noted how with only hours remaining in 2012, I made a list of 11 resolutions for myself, with “none being particularly easy” because they were all large goals and life changes.

I also said that “one of the problems with resolutions is that they often don’t carry any immediate consequences. If the resolution, for example, is to lose weight and a person doesn’t start immediately, there is always next week, next month, next year.”

I jokingly followed by saying, “To motivate myself, I decided to impose a consequence. If I do not accomplish all 11 items by December 31, 2013, I will purchase a little rowboat and some rations, and push myself out into Lake Michigan until I find either enlightenment or hypothermia.”

However, the truth behind the joke was that I was taking these resolutions seriously, because they all did carry an immediate consequence: unhappiness.

calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutions-572x433Isn’t that why most people make even the most basic, cliched resolutions? If a person says, “I am going to lose 20 pounds!” it’s likely rooted in that person being unhappy with how they look or feel, or they believe those 20lbs are keeping them from some form of happiness. If a person says, “I’m going to spend less money!” it’s because they are unhappy with being broke and feeling their heart stop in terror at the sight of each bill. That’s what resolutions are: we are trying to resolve our unhappiness.

Likewise, my 11 resolutions were identifying nagging sources of unhappiness that I could fix to push me toward as much happiness as possible. None of this is to say I lead a miserable, unhappy life, nor am I even remotely suggesting my life is “worse” or “harder” than anyone else’s. If anything, I am very fortunate and lucky to have the life I do. Still, I don’t believe in settling. I think we should all continue to work to be better and happier, whether those are small adjustments or massive changes.

Some of my resolutions were public and I blabbed about them constantly to anyone who would listen (like #1, to keep running, working out, and improving my fitness). Others were intensely personal and I never talked to anyone about them. So, I decided to amusingly share the results of my resolutions, without identify what the resolutions was.

The results of my 11 resolutions:

#1: Accomplished, but still working at it.
#2: So-so. I’ll say I failed, because I didn’t do as well as I should have.
#3: Accomplished, technically. But there’s a long way to go.
#4: Yikes. Sort of? Not really?
#5: Significant progress, but not accomplished.
#6: Zero progress.
#7: Complete failure.
#8: Accomplished, just not with the results I wanted.
#9: Accomplished?
#10: Accomplished.
#11: Accomplished.

As we begin 2014, I hope everyone has a wonderful year. I will be updating my resolutions and goals. If you made resolutions, I hope you stick with them and find all the happiness you’re after.

2014-Happy-New-Year1

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

 When I was growing up, it was a weekly tradition to hear my dad make the same weekend proclamation: “Starting Monday, I’m going on a diet!” It was always Monday. Never “tomorrow” or “after this meal” or “as of right now!” The diet always started Monday. And, inevitably, the diet never actually started Monday.

 I can’t criticize him, though, for a few reasons. First, because when he finally decided to lose weight, he did so with seemingly no effort and without exercising more or eating differently. Either he has a superhuman metabolism, a tapeworm, or a pact with the Devil.

 Secondly, I can’t criticize, because most of us fall prey to the same thinking. We want our fresh start to correspond neatly with the fresh start to some period of time, like a week, or as many people are doing right now, a year.

 ImageNew Year’s  Resolutions are largely laughable, as we all know. They are mostly clichéd (“I want to lose weight!”) and  quickly discarded. This article from Forbes points out some of the most common – and broken – resolutions.

 I don’t usually make New Year’s Resolutions, but I sort of did this year. With less than two hours left to go in 2012, I wrote myself a list of life changes/improvements to make it the next 365 days. The list was 11 items long, with none being particularly easy. I thought about tacking on something easy like “Get my car’s oil changed” but I’ve already failed to do that for over 20,000 miles at this point, so even that isn’t a gimme.

 One of the problems with resolutions is that they often don’t carry any immediate consequences. If the resolution, for example, is to lose weight and a person doesn’t start immediately, there is always next week, next month, next year.

 So, to motivate myself, I decided to impose a consequence. If I do not accomplish all 11 items by December 31, 2013, I will purchase a little rowboat and some rations, and push myself out into Lake Michigan until I find either enlightenment or hypothermia.

 (I reserve the right to balk at that punishment as the date draws nearer.)

 I do love the spirit of resolutions, though. When people make resolutions, they’re always (or usually?) positive, and it’s always nice to hear that people are striving to make themselves and the world around them better. We could probably use an injection of that spirit far more often than just once a year…especially a week or two into the new year when we are already slacking on our resolutions.