OK, OK…. look, I was meant to get this out before… like maybe between Christmas and New Years. Or at least, last week. But… you know, I’ve been very, very busy. First, there was all that snow, and the drop in barometric pressure makes it difficult for me to focus on writing. Like my sinuses felt like they were going to explode! And then I got influenza and got a real good look at how all those people died in 1918… and I’m not talking about in the trenches of northwest France… but in the living rooms of Jersey City! And then a particularly mean spirited patron of Ash Creek made off with my early drafts. I think it was unintentional… but you never know. Do you know how hard it is to start from scratch knowing that some of my most brilliant material will be lost to the ages? How would Mozart feel? Now you have an idea how I feel… totally lost, cast adrift. And I promise, never… never ever to be so careless. I’m starting this year right… I will not be careless and I intend to grow four inches taller! Actually, there are no mean patrons at Ash Creek, at least around me… no, it was a dog. Yeah, it was my frolicking Bernese Mountain Dog, Claude who ate the drafts and that’s why I’m so late! Yeah, Claude the fuckin’ Bernese Mountain Dog….
Once again we begin a New Year, and many of us enter into “personal contracts” to do this or that in the New Year. Typically these are goals pointed towards improvement… to lose weight, to obey the speed limit, to be more considerate of our co-workers, to never go into the express check-out lane with 12 items. You get the idea.
There are parallels in Religious traditions as well. Both Yom Kippur and the Lenten period are times when folks take an accounting of their lives and commit to self improvement. This is enhanced by a fast, or making a sacrifice of some type. As an example, for years I have eschewed consuming white zinfandel, both on Yom Kippur and during Lent.
It maybe a surprise to some that the tradition of making resolutions is not “new” nor is it a creature of American invention. In 13th Century the Abbey on the Firth of Forth had a “Resolve Day” that was observed the day before the Summer Solstice. Yaroslav the Wise, Grand Prince of Novgorod established a Day of No Vodka in 1021 (he was succeeded by Bryachislav of Polotsk two days later after Yaroslav was assassinated). In 490 BC the City State of Athens created Run Naked Day (which no one observed except that dude who ran from Marathon to Athens and subsequently died from embarrassment… although Herotodus wrote that his death was due to exhaustion… Hah!). Ramses II in 1274 BC after winning the Battle of Kadesh ordered a What Can I Do For My Pharaoh Day.
So, you see that this resolution and commitment to improve thing goes back pretty far in history. Here is a brief list of some famous personages and their recorded resolutions.
Alan Ladd: “I will grow four inches taller this year.”
Josef Stalin: “I will kill all senior officers Colonel grade and above this year. And I will grow four inches taller.”
Voltaire: “I will write to my Mother at least once a week. And I will grow four inches taller.”
Stephen Douglas: “Ha-hoo! I will marry Mary Todd this year! And I will grow four inches taller.”
Dudley Moore: “I promise to always put down the toilet seat, and not because I’m asked to! And I will grow four inches taller.”
Herman Goering: “I will use less rouge and only wear mascara when I go to the State Opera House. And I will lose four inches.”