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I resolve to be more despicable

January 01, 2007|by TIM ROWLAND

After many years and many failed New Year's resolutions, this year I am attacking the issue with religious zeal and thunderous energy that will not - can not - be denied. This is a resolution I will keep at all costs, and I don't mind making it public so you can "hold my feet to the fire" and monitor my progress to be certain I'm getting it done.

For 2007, I resolve to be a worse person than I was in 2006.

Now before you scoff, keep in mind that this is not necessarily an easy benchmark to reach, especially for me.

Remember, my behavior and performance in 2006 was pretty low to begin with, so this is not a resolution that can be met without some considerable effort on my part.

And, just to raise the stakes a little, I'm not talking about being a worse person in one particular area or another. I am talking about a complete and well-rounded despicableness that - if I am successful - will record a notable decline in all aspects of my life.

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I'd like to see you do that.

I resolve to increase fatty foods and tobacco use. I resolve to spend less time with family and friends. I resolve to get into debt. I resolve to gain weight, become less organized and be less helpful to others. Not only do I resolve not to expand my horizons and learn anything new, I resolve to forget stuff that I know now.

These may not be worthy goals, but at least I feel as if they are doable. And if I fail to keep them, it's not grounds for depression.

Better yet, they are all resolutions that I will enjoy.

The problem with New Year's resolutions, as I see it, is that people always choose something that will cause them some degree of pain. Quitting cigarettes may have long-term benefits, but short-term you're a wreck. Who looks forward to that? Why not resolve to up it to two packs a day, or put on 20 pounds and enjoy the ride?

To make this exercise easier, picture the world as if you were the only one in it. Would you care about your body-mass index? No. Would you care if you were more productive at work? Negative. Would you be inclined to improve your table manners? Hardly.

Resolutions aren't about what we think we ought to be, they are about what society has told us we think we ought to be. If you are the only person on the planet, are you really going to resolve to "maintain a more professional appearance?"

And resolutions have the singular effect of making you feel even more terrible about yourself when you fail to keep them, which is always what happens. So effectively, you're starting off in January by saying, "Not only am I going to fail to lose weight, but on top of that I'm going to feel really, really depressed about it."

Who needs that? It's no way to start a new year.

On the other hand, if you resolve to be a worse husband and then fail to do it, you haven't suffered a crushing blow.

So come on, you can do this. Be less than you can be. You can start by ignoring all those self-help Web sites and public service messages, such as this actual government site that suggests a New Year's resolution of volunteering in the fight against malaria. It starts out:

"At least one million infants and children under five in sub-Saharan Africa die each year from malaria - one approximately every 30 seconds. The President's Malaria Initiative (PMI) is a historic $1.2 billion, five-year initiative to control ..."

Now if you don't immediately see about 10 things wrong with that, you're not trying. Your time on earth is short enough as it is, and you're going to spend it swatting mosquitos?

The far better course is to resolve not to give malaria and the children in Sub-Saharan Africa a second thought, because it doesn't in any way affect you.

But then if, by chance, at some point in the year - April, perhaps - you get to thinking that 1 million children a year equals a lot of human misery and you decide to get involved, that's so much the better. If you have firmly told yourself you are not going to help and then you wind up doing it anyway, a failed resolution becomes a real plus.

See there? Life is so much easier when you resolve not to think about it.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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