Janus, the Roman god with two faces, was able to look into the past as well as ahead to the future. He’s the reason why the first month of our calendar year, January, is named the way it is. January marks the closing of the last year and the start of the new one – in this case, 2014. Like the Ancient Romans, the Babylonians, and numerous religious groups around the world have for thousands of years, you can bet loads of people are making “New Year’s Resolutions” to honor this temporal transition to January. But, while Janus was omniscient and powerful, wasn’t he also just an old, obsolete, two-faced guy?
The truth is, making a “New Year’s Resolution” is a passé routine for spineless conformists – and it can bring the two-facedness out of people that lack enduring willpower. “But it’s self-improvement!”, you say? Tell me how “self-improved” you are by the time spring comes and you need Lent – or your Lent-practicing Christian peers – to remind you of self-discipline and how you didn’t lose twenty pounds but in fact gained them. But that’s just it – all of these “self-disciplinary” routines are just diluted remnants of past cultures where sacrificing first-born children was your socially acceptable ticket to heaven. In other words, “New Year’s Resolutions” hundreds to thousands of years ago were not much different than Lenten traditions: sacrifice and self-improvement for the sake of Christianity. So today… where does that leave us today in a very diverse America?
If only the devout spiritualists of those bygone times could observe the things that motivate people in modern American society. Did you know the top resolutions in recent years include losing weight, exercising, eating healthier, drinking less alcohol, and better managing money? In a snapshot perspective, these resolutions make America seem gluttonous, lazy, alcoholic, and greedy. Oh – actually that seems pretty accurate. To those of you who actually partake in making resolutions as a way of internal self-improvement, kudos to you for adhering to the original tradition as closely as possible.
Don’t get me wrong – I understand that some of us eat too much, exercise too little, and the like… but isn’t that something you should be self-improving constantly? Even internal self-improvement: Does it really take the flip of the Gregorian calendar – an artificial point in time along the elliptical path the Earth follows around the Sun, a revolution – for you to say, ‘Oh, gee, I should get serious about this now!’ ? Because, if that’s how you think, you’re not going to resolve anything. To really improve a problem, there is no “I’ll start on that day” because then you can always just say “I’ll start tomorrow…the next tomorrow”. It should just be, “I need to fix this…so I’m going to fix it. Now.” Forget a New Year’s Resolution – that is part of an Every Day Revolution.
So, because I choose neither to sacrifice babies to an ancient god nor to put any real faith in labeling time through our calendar system (which, by the way, vastly differs between cultures), I am not going to be making neo-traditional New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I’m going to resolve – as I do every day, June 1st or January 1st – to keep doing what I do. And what do I do? I land myself in the middle of third-world countries with too little cash, tour new cities by brewery, kick back with Sylvia Plath and my cats and no friends because I have none, and tell myself that one day I will save the world with engineering…as soon as I learn how to engineer.
Happy It’s-Just-Another-Day (but drink champagne and eat Hoppin’ John with collard greens anyway)!