Phew! Between a dose of the Dreaded Lurgy, travel, and the end-of-year festivities, things got away from me a bit for a couple of weeks there.
So it’s thank goodness for the New Year.
Or, is it? Alongside the usual end-of-year reviews and goals for 2018 that I’ve been seeing on my soshul meeds, there’s also been a bit of sniffiness about New Year and New Year’s resolutions. But perhaps nothing quite as scornful as this 1916 column from Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci:
“I hate these New Year’s that fall like fixed maturities, which turn life and human spirit into a commercial concern with its neat final balance, its outstanding amounts, its budget for the new management.” — Antonio Gramsci, January 1st, 1916 https://t.co/6HB8zJo4Le
— Viewpoint Magazine (@viewpointmag) January 1, 2018
[Be sure to catch more lighthearted japes in the Apoplexy Tiny Letter!
Oh, and there’s some actual stroke stuff if you read on!]
Antonio, if you reckon 1916 Turin New Year was capitalist cultural hegemony, you ain’t seen nothing yet!
To be fair, this was part of a project to showcase Edinburgh locales that have inspired the city’s writers, like Conan Doyle, RLS, Rowling, and Muriel Spark. Not that Gramsci would have given a pass to celebrating a story wherein the hero is a beneficiary of hereditary power who is sent down to a replica of the Rugby of Tom Brown’s Schooldays where he gets special exemptions from the headmaster while taking credit for the heroics of more working class and female friends.
For a more ideologically acceptable text, visit Calton Hill on the superb LitLong interactive exploration of literary Edinburgh.
Gramsci’s got a point, of course:
You end up seriously thinking that between one year and the next there is a break, that a new history is beginning; you make resolutions, and you regret your irresolution, and so on, and so forth.
But as I’ve mentioned more than once, my pal Andy uses the weekly arrival of Shabbat to reflect on the seven days that have passed and the seven days to come, and that exercise strikes me as a useful one whereby one can take a step towards fulfilling Gramsci’s ambition of living every hour of life as new, though connected to the ones that have passed.
If connected to that kind of ongoing practice, the passing of the old year into the new can be a similarly useful tool. Though, that’s where resolutions tend to fall down. Like a user kicking a habit, to be successful the goal of the large-scale resolution has to be something one has already decided to do, and internalised.
For example, around a decade ago, I decided that I had to grant the goal of happiness greater priority in my life. Or, as I described it to friends,
My resolution was to be more of an asshole.
What can I say? Making such a ridiculous assertion made me happy. Anyway, the serious aspect of that resolution was something I had come to after much wrestling and agonising.
Facebook recently reminded me that I’d shared some suggested resolutions from HuffPost three years ago, and they seemed to resonate with the people who read them. They’re here and I commend them to you, but again, they require a larger commitment and internalisation than being scribbled on a piece of paper on a more or less arbitrary date.
It seems to me that the very idea of the New Year’s resolution bakes in an idea that we’re going to [give up smoking/drink less/go to the gym] for as many days as possible from 1/1 until the inevitable failure. At which point the spell is broken, Harry.
So perhaps it’s better the use the opportunity that the New Year grants to make a decision to achieve one, discrete task. In the light of this horrifying news story from December about a woman who was kept alive against her will after suffering a catastrophic stroke, why not think about drawing up a living will/advance directive/power of attorney, and – just as importantly – making sure your family and representatives are aware of it and have a copy?