James Wan 31 January 2008

Two weeks is 336 hours. It’s a long time. Long enough to shrink your waist, according to the creatively-titled Shrink Your Waist in Two Weeks by Anita Life. It is also, apparently, the average length of time it takes for us to drop our New Year’s resolutions. Having battled hard for a respectable length of time, we wave a little white flag at the devil inside us and euphorically embrace those home truths we knew all along: smoking, drinking and recreational drugs are the things that make life worth living; the beautiful are born beautiful, the rest of us just have to deal with it, and the warm fuzzy feeling of stacking books in an Oxfam shop is not nearly as pleasant as not stacking books for Oxfam and watching TV instead.

Frankly, the whole concept of New Year’s resolutions has bewildered me my entire life. Consider the incomprehensible idiom of ‘turning over a new leaf’. Am I the leaf? Is my life the leaf? Is it a really big leaf? I’ve also always been struck by the sheer futility of people’s choices of resolutions. They always concern a totally inconsequential area of life, are invariably unnecessary and often mildly nauseating (“spend more time with my family”, “be kinder to small fluffy animals”).

If there is an issue that truly needs addressing in our lives and we have the capability to act, then we generally do so anyway. Buying a new calendar isn’t required. Much as I like the idea of someone thinking up New Year’s resolutions as they sit fermenting in their post-Christmas, Brussels sprout fart-clouds, this is not the way we make such decisions. If resolutions existed for some common good instead of to simply salvage some barely-existent morsel of self-discipline within us, they might be more welcome. “Well, what about trying to be more charitable as a resolution,” I hear you cry in your adorable naiveté. Well, no. Where some people would be touched by this benevolent notion, others would involuntarily retch at any mention of such an idea. Mass spontaneous vomiting is not generally seen as a ‘universal good’, though it’s an interesting thought. Thinking up resolutions that would benefit absolutely everyone in society is, of course, very tricky, but I think I have managed to work out some for a select few individuals. Bono: die. Matt Lucas: die. Mum & Dad: love me more. It’s not much, I know, but it would definitely be a start.

Sadly, we aren’t allowed to impose resolutions on others, but that does not render them completely useless. People change for two reasons – because they need to change or because they want to change. Neither has anything to do with the start of a new year. The only resolutions we have any chance of keeping are those that we would follow anyway – not resolutions regarding things we ought to do, but rather those that we just want to. And so, before I set off to de-alphabetise the Oxfam book section, I leave you with some suggestions of sustainable and worthy resolutions in that vein: 1) Break wind more often in other people’s rooms. 2) Accidentally nudge fast-moving cyclists. 3) Experiment with self-gratification. 4) Complete Pog collection. I wish you every success in keeping them.

James Wan