I suppose it's that time again. A new year is upon us – and with it, all of the same declarations and promises that I've heard so many times before. I'm talking about new year resolutions – those solemn proclamations of sobriety and reservation that are often spoken with a wine glass in one's hand.
Perhaps I'm the only one, but doesn't anyone else find it ironic that we ring in our clean slates with debaucherous parties and celebrations? Perhaps that's the point, then – to get in one last evening of insanity before we wind things down and attempt to restructure and restyle ourselves.
The thing is, I just can't get behind the new year resolution tradition. Why should one particular day serve as an impetus for change? I understand that for many people, it's difficult to change bad habits that are so deeply ingrained. I'm hardly an exception.
However, I think that if one really and truly wants to change, a single holiday just isn't enough. I'm reminded of a joke a friend told me not long ago:
A man travels to New York and decides to grab a hot dog from a street vendor. He goes to one vendor, who happens to be a monk, and purchases a single hot dog. He pays with a $20 bill and patiently waits for his change. After waiting for nearly 10 minutes, he asks the monk:
"Where is my change?"
To which the monk duly replies:
"Change comes from within."
Humor aside, I think a valuable point is demonstrated in the monk's words. External factors can be helpful in trying to fulfill one's resolutions. The encouraging words of a friend, the possibilities offered by a new year – all of these things can help to change one's lifestyle for the better. But true and definite change must be self-induced. Relying on a holiday to change your life will never be fruitful.
And really, I'm not entirely sure that change is necessary for many of us. I commend those that resolve to drop unhealthy habits – certainly, many of us could afford to give up vices like smoking, overeating and the like. But I also think a small dose of vice is not only forgivable, but necessary.
Perhaps I should elaborate. To make a broad generalization, life is short, brutal and largely pointless. We don't get a lot of time here – you never know when a bus is going to come around the corner and flatten you. You could get a horrible disease and end up eating your meals through a tube for the rest of your life. And with the exception of a few of us, most of the things that we say, do and create will be quickly and easily forgotten after we die.
And where will your resolutions be then? Did forgoing that extra candy bar really improve your life? I think indulgence gets a bad rap. And to that end, I want to ring in 2011 by making an anti-resolution.
So you're on a diet, and don't want to order dessert? I'll order two. Someone buys you a drink at the bar, and you turn it down? I'll take it. This year, I resolve to reward myself for a year of hard work and diligence.
For me, it comes down to a very basic idea. Why are we here? What are we doing? Is there any point to the trivial pursuits we engage in every day? Although it might not be the most popular idea, I believe that the purpose of life is to enjoy, celebrate and indulge in all of the amazing and pleasurable things that the world can offer. That bit in the United States Declaration of Independence, about the pursuit of happiness? That's the real deal right there.
I'm not trying to advocate the kind of excess that ruins peoples' lives – there is certainly a fine line between happiness and overindulgence. But this idea that we should make some kind of annual promise to deny our desires, a promise that is so easily broken - well, it's just overrated.
Eat, drink, be merry. Life is too short not to do so. Happy New Year to you and yours.