“The life which is unexamined is not worth living,” Plato wrote this, recalling a speech given by Socrates at his own trial. Both men lived around 400 B.C., and as far as I know both are dead.
Over two thousand years later, people still ponder their past and resolve to do better, especially at the beginning of a new year. Personally, I think it would be good for all concerned if this was done more frequently, but for now let us recognize the merit in an annual refocusing of our reflective lens.
Even though it may be easier to take stock of another and suggest ways for them to improve, it may be more profitable to take a look at yourself and see how you can improve. One popular course of action is to resolve to eat in a more healthful manner and exercise regularly. But so many have tried and failed through the years it seems fruitless – which may be part of the problem – not enough fruit in the diet.
When I was a kid it was considered funny to “give up smoking” during lent, although few kids actually smoked (although I did know one boy in 1969 who smoked at the age of eleven, but he quit sometime the following year). I don’t smoke, although I think smoking a pipe may make me appear more literary. But beginning a bad habit for appearance sake goes against the underlying theme of New Year’s resolutions, that is to better oneself.
I guess I’m a little uncomfortable publicly declaring my promise to end a bad habit, much less start a new one, as that would involve admitting I actually have one (or one-hundred and one). So perhaps instead let me try and modify my current behavior.
For instance, I don’t often raise my voice, but I firmly believe it would be better if I never did (unless it was an emergency, such as if I were losing an argument).
Naturally, I could stand to get some more exercise. So with that in mind I will use the stairs whenever the escalator is out of order, and I promise not to complain about it.
Just like W.C. Fields, small children bother me, but this year I resolve to spend more time with them. I will start small by holding my new born grandson in the first month or so and work my way up from there.
This year I will only eat when I am hungry and not as a recreational sport; I will eat my fill and no more. Holidays and desserts, of course, are subject to my discretion and are not to be included in any general binding statement.
Recognizing that it is not my place to judge others, I will withhold my opinions and condemnations unless such behavior is so abhorrent and contrary to all that is right and holy.
I promise to read more, watch more movies, listen to more music, and play my banjo more. I will care less about what others think when I believe what I am doing is not immoral, harmful to myself, others, animals or the environment, void where prohibited by law and does not require any assembly. And, I better get started soon because as Plato wrote, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.”