Monday, 31 December 2007

"Carpe Annum"

New Year’s Eve and the end of a year once again fast approaches. This is a time for many people to put the mistakes of the old year behind them and focus their energy on a fresh new 365 days of possibility. For others it’s a time for reflection on the triumphs of the past before planning with eager anticipation, a new year. Despite the fact that nothing will change when Big Ben strikes midnight, people around the world will celebrate the arbitrarily positioned ‘end’ of 2007 and the start of 2008.

Many will make a New Year’s resolution; a change to lifestyle or habit that will supposedly improve the person’s life or level of happiness. New Year is traditionally seen as the time to do this even though, from past experience, lots of people know that their willpower will not last until February. Surveys of the United States show that the top resolutions made around this time are to spend more time with family and friends, to get fit, to lose weight, to quit a bad habit, or (apparently) to “enjoy life more” whatever that entails. Since that survey was conducted by General Nutrition Centres and Quicken, they probably have a very specific range of people which they surveyed ie. dieticians and fitness aficionados.

A resolution is pointless. Lives are not judged by what a person promised to do; lives are judged by actions alone. Good intentions mean nothing beyond the personal subjective. No-one ever had an obituary espousing their good intentions and what they never got round to doing. The sum total of a life is made up of actions performed, thoughts shared, and people met. Promising or resolving to perform an action doesn’t mean a thing. Only the performance of the action is memorable and important.

New Year’s resolutions are contrary to the existentialist lifestyle. As Sartre put it, existentialism is a philosophy of action. People are free to perform any action they desire and are fully responsible for those actions. Blaming someone else or blaming circumstance or not performing in the manner you choose is living in inauthentic ‘bad faith’. Meaning comes from continued existence and existence is typified by action. It’s no use thinking of yourself as a novelist; until you write a novel for the world to see, you’re not. This is all fairly dogmatic and, as an existentialist, I recognise that people have different world views which you are free to hold and define yourself by.

So this year I invite you not to make a resolution. Don’t promise to do something different. Just do something different. Live. Be it according to your rationality or your emotions: whatever, just act. And act like that for the entirety of this upcoming year; life is absurd so 2008 is bound to be relatively bizarre.

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