Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Scientific Theory of New Year's Resolutions ~ Why Bother?

Well, alright now. We've gotten through Christmas in the Demon household, through the exchange of nice expensive smelly stuffs, so your DP smells really good, the odd bit of jewelry, &, of course, that staple of grown-up Christmasses, sweaters.

In fact, DP's hypothesis is that you know you've reached boring full-blown adult-Christmas maturity when you finally accept:

1. There is no Santa, only fat, lecherous men; and

2. It dawns on you, finally, that there are a finite number winter sweaters in the world, & it is the Sugar Plum Fairy's responsibility to see that you never get the same one twice.

Actually, I'm not the originator of the sweater theory--I was pointed toward it the Christmas several years ago that my son tore open a festively wrapped box & exclaimed with great delight, "Mom, you gave me this same sweater last year."

The Sugar Plum Fairy had fallen down on the job, he thought. That was not true, by the way.

They were just approximately the same color, which I thought would look good on him.

Maturity lesson at Christmas #3: while you may outgrow your willingness to wear it, your mother never outgrows her right to select clothing for you, for which she never saves the receipts.

So now we're onto that other great holiday tradition: New Year's resolutions. Not that I gave it a great deal of thought this year (in fact, not a one).

I keep them manageable by keeping them modest. Especially compared to those I made the year I graduated~ I fondly remember the year I wrote, "Grow up. Get a real job. Settle down." I still laugh heartily at that one.

Now comes news that, like me, y'all can blissfully ignore the whole matter of those stupid New Year's resolutions. This article from the New York Times (read it now, before it's archived & you have to pay for it) explains why, despite your best efforts, you'll never fulfill them anyway. It's written by a scientist ~ & despite that , it's very entertaining as well as interesting & thoughtful.

"Having just lived through another New Year’s Eve, many of you have just resolved to be better, wiser, stronger and richer in the coming months and years. After all, we’re free humans, not slaves, robots or animals doomed to repeat the same boring mistakes over and over again. As William James wrote in 1890, the whole 'sting and excitement' of life comes from 'our sense that in it things are really being decided from one moment to another, and that it is not the dull rattling off of a chain that was forged innumerable ages ago.'”

He goes on to say:

"Get over it, Dr. James. Go get yourself fitted for a new chain-mail vest. A bevy of experiments in recent years suggest that the conscious mind is like a monkey riding a tiger of subconscious decisions and actions in progress, frantically making up stories about being in control. "

I hate to be the one to break it to yas, cookies, but there's no such thing as free will ~ just the proverbial chattering "monkey mind" (familiar to all who try to meditate & find themselves beset by niggling little trivialities when they sat down expecting that today, finally, would be the day they reached nirvana) that also insists you can control things, especially yourself.

No harm in trying, I suppose, as long as you don't take yourself too seriously.

Happy New Year!


Post a Comment

<< Home