Arguably plausible New Year resolutions

by Henry McQuale

There is something laughably pathetic about New Year resolutions, or at least there is something that makes us laugh contemptibly to our insides when someone tells us about the things they expect to accomplish throughout the brand new year, regardless of their petty triviality or their unaccomplishable grandiosity. I’m still not sure which one is the funniest or most pathetic, but my empathy lies with the grandiose: pathetic as they may be, there is something heroic and romantic about those who fail -even miserably- when trying to achieve great things. On the contrary, those who fail at the trivial are irredeemable -not only failures when it comes to getting shit done, but failures when it comes to realizing what shit is worth getting done.

I say all this because now it’s the time for me to become the object of laughs and pity, for I also have my list of New Year resolutions. And I don’t say this with pretensions of martyrdom -I’m not here to brag about the greatness of my vision and then think of me as a pathetic and misunderstood hero when everyone laughs at me or when I eventually fail. No, there is no great vision in any of my resolutions, and most precisely, nothing interesting in them or worth reading for anyone besides me. They all range form the petty to the basic -because for a while I have known that I lack the  basic abilities and qualities of a minimally decent person-,  and I, perhaps overestimating my willpower (I now believe that the will is epiphenomenal, but  just take it as a figure of speech), plan on fixing that this year.

So there you go: stay if you want to be bored or contemptuously amused by a small individual’s goals and expectations, which I will now list (with no particular order of importance):

1- Read more: I fancy myself a good reader, but the truth is that I waste much time doing unimportant things when I could be reading about greatly important stuff. A book per week (200 pages) or at least 80 pages a day is my hoped minimum. That number of pages refers to the dense stuff, not pulp novels, of which I could read at least the double of pages per day.

2- Read less crap: a big chunk of my already insufficient reading consists in worthless internet stuff. If I must read garbage I will at least leave it for after my important reading is done.

3- Write more: not vacuous diary-style ramblings (i.e. this very entry), but well thought and well researched entries and essays. At least one good blog entry per week, and one good essay per month.

4- Write better: I fancy myself a good writer, but anyone competent who is reading this has noticed the flaws in my writing. I’m not sure I’ve identified all of them, but I need to start being much more careful both grammatically and stylistically. Most of all, I should tone down the style pretensions if they conflict with the clarity and coherence of the writing.

5- Finish the goddamned thesis: So far I have only written sketches of the main ideas, but I need to finish with my research and start thinking seriously about its structure and sequence of ideas and arguments. I must be clear, coherent and original, above all; I should make it be a thesis worth reading for all those philosophically interested in the problem of free-will, and damning for all those who still believe we have it.

6- Think better: sounds stupid and might be a reflection of my lacking intellect, but this is what I am trying to say: I don’t plan on becoming more intelligent, just to stop being careless and hasty: before thinking I have the right answer, I will think about the possible ways in which I am wrong or have committed a fallacy.

7- Be more charitable: intellectually speaking, I should stop being condescending or unfairly misreading thinkers of the opposite persuasion. Many of my worst mistakes come from reading uncharitably and the triumphantly declaring victory or philosophical dead-end.

8- Be more patient: philosophy is not easy and sometimes it requires long argumentative chains. I ought to give thinkers the benefit of the doubt before despairing and calling them hopelessly baroque or mere producers of convolution.

9- Research systematically: I should stop reading what I want, no matter how important in general, and read what I need to read for my particular purposes. Reading about the metaphysics of universals and about the nominalist reactions is fascinating, but that will scarcely help me finish my thesis on the problem of free-will.

10- Eat and drink better: eating less garbage and drinking less diet coke is necessary for my good health. Five meals a day will be better than my usual three huge and stupefying greasy meals. My metabolism be so slow now because of that.

11- Do more exercise: for good health mainly but also because I want my body to look better. Secondarily, my aim will be to both grow some muscle (but not enough to look bulky) and to get rid of the last traces of my slightly overweight past. My elasticity is also ridiculous, and I should start doing stretches.

12- Sleep better: more or at more reasonable times. This is possibly a big cause for my fatigue along with the bad eating.

13- Be more socially competent: which means doing my best to control my shyness, awkwardness  and anxiety in public contexts. It also means being less contemptuous towards the others.

14- Stop being boring!: Not much to explain here, but I understand and notice perfectly when I bore people, and I bore them often.

15- Stop being so insecure: A big part of my recent years has been devoted to hating myself, what I do and what I say. Also, by being suspicious about the affection of others: I should stop believing I’m unworthy of love or I will end up sabotaging my relationships.

16- Stop being cruel: a product of my insecurities and fears is cruelty. When I feel hurt I hurt. That is not the good way of handling things, which brings me to:

17- Stop being spiteful and resentful: as a matter of mere congruence, since I don’t believe in free-will and the justification of the reactive attitudes that go with it, I should do my best, if not to stop feeling these emotions, to stop acting on them as if they were justified.

18- Be more compassionate and empathetic: a big part of my philosophical “programme”  is a commitment to reduce as much suffering as I am capable of, with words or with actions. And for that it is crucial to be able to identify suffering, and I won’t be able unless I don’t turn my head away from suffering  and allow myself to feel what others feel  (as far as that is possible), no matter how different the subjects of suffering can be from me, or how far away they are from me.

19- Be less selfish: very related to the last point. I have to learn to distinguish when my own suffering is the lesser of evils, and act accordingly.

20- Don’t be a shitty friend: I should learn to appreciate the people that might earnestly appreciate me. And make amends with the friends I have let down.

21- Don’t be messy: I need to be more systematic in the way I order things and in the way I dispose of them. Maybe that way messes won’t grow as fast as they always do around me.

22- Finish watching LOST :)

23- Don’t be lazy: Good luck with that.

24- Don’t forget these resolutions.