On New Years Resolutions

The Weeping Philosopher. Detail from "The School of Athens" (1510-11) Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino.

A fragment attributed to Heraclitus reads 

The road up and the road down is one and the same. 

No new thing without the old dying away. Even the memories of last year’s hopes are closing off to us even as the time itself is irrevocably fixed now for all time. Hopes fade, and maybe even memory of their thwarting; but those infirmities which spawned failings abide. 

There is something to be envied and pitied in those who only consider the project of self-overcoming come New Year’s time. For them there is no joy in the consciousness of striving–but  none of the disappointment of failure. No ultimate dejection that one experiences when they cannot live with the person they are–but no perrennial companion in the image of what one might be. The comforts of certainty–but at the cost of that liberating despair at the prospect of fighting the same fight every waking hour, that battle to outsmart oneself and trick one into being everything they can be. 

Most do not know these highest hieghts or lowest lows. They set aside one night a year to set themselves to tasks to be forgotten by February. “No!” I say to this. I make no resolutions I would not resolve every day of every year, and every hour of every day. The fixed date at which the New-Years Resolver commits themselves to their task allows for lenience, softness with the self. “I have not written all week since Christmas! But it is no trouble, I will write again on First January. There is always tomorrow.”  To this I say “No!”  There is never a promise of tomorrow. The only vocation is self-realization. (We owe one another every degree of excellence we can muster. An incompetent humanitarian affects little humanism.)

 To really live, one must be of the mindset that they will never have another day off, and that they should never want one, that such a thing is hateful. 

“Don’t work too hard!” Let this become a curse to you. If your work is your love, it is the same to say to you, “Love your chains and your littleness! Mediocrity is a fair price to pay for avoidance of holy exertion!”


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