According to some insane professor, New Year’s resolutions are due December 31

Fortunately, I’m only auditing the course. That means I don’t have to do the assignments or take the tests. It also means I don’t get any CEUs, much less college credit, for taking the course. I don’t mind because, really, I don’t need the grief or the deadlines.

The course is called “Fixing Your Life for Fun and Profit.”

All of us are shunted through the course because it’s part of our general education requirements. Compared to grad school where grades lower than As and Bs don’t count, you can skate through the GE courses with a C average.

According to the syllabus, the criterion objectives include: (a) the student will learn how to write affirmations that speak of a better life than s/he had at the beginning of the course, and (b) how to write New Year’s resolutions that, while powerless, impress all who hear them.

Do you see the flaw in the course?

Resolutions and other affirmations don’t accomplish diddly squat unless those who write them or say them or proclaim actually want to change. So there it is. If they wanted to change, they would have done it already–no need to write it down as an action step.

Since I like pulling people’s chains, I usually say that my New Year’s resolutions include “Killing fewer people than last year” and “Fighting the urge to throw fools under the bus.” If I say this in “real life,” there’s a lot of silence in the room. If I say this online, I get a lot of laughing smiley faces like the whole thing’s a joke.

Do you notice that when people post heartfelt resolutions on Facebook and in their blogs that they do so with an expectation of praise? You know, like they’ve already accomplished something? Studies show that most New Year’s resolutions are broken or forgotten before February.

Of course they are because they’re all for show and/or for a passing grade in the smoke-and-mirrors “Fixing Your Life for Fun and Profit” course. It’s all snake oil and very expensive. Like patent medicine, it cures everything from gout to malice to bad breath.

Every once in awhile, placebos cure people. Perhaps January 1 is your day, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the satirical mystery “Special Investigative Reporter.”



New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Boycott Gluten-Free Products – As I understand it, most people are not allergic to gluten and it has health benefits we’re being denied in the mad rush to get rid of it.
  2. Curse with more finesse – The best kinds of cursing, and other putdowns, are those people don’t realize aren’t very nice. So, I need to improve on this.
  3. Start Writing Potboiler Novels – Or, beach reads perhaps. These usually have little value, can be written quickly, and make lots of money. What’s not to like?
  4. Avoid Political “Discussions” on Facebook – Most of these are debates are between people with facts and people who think their ignorant/biased opinions are worth just as much as the facts. These threads never end well.
  5. Drink More Water – I read somewhere that we’re 200% water and that every day that we don’t drink as much water as we’re supposed to, we shrink and become less ourselves.
  6. Eat More Gravy – As Southerners know, gravy makes great food even better. So-called diet experts who live outside the South have been trying to subvert this truth for years.
  7. Stop Eating Brussels Sprouts – They cause gas. My Buick might get better mileage from them than I do.
  8. Ignore So-Called URGENT Petition Drives – When e-mails come in that say, “Malcolm, we need a billion signatures by midnight,” find out what good (if any) all those signatures will do.
  9. Stop Allowing Auto-Correct to Take Over My Writing:  If auto-correct changes my Facebook post or e-mail from “I love you” to “You’re a real shit,” there’s no need to go along with that.
  10. Stop Voting for Candidates Who Tell Me What They Will Do: Since we purportedly have a representative government, those elected should be doing what the voters want them to do and not what they want to do.
  11. Wear a Blindfold While Watching “Chopped” on TV – Most viewers of “Chopped” know that each show’s four chefs have to cook with mystery baskets that include crap that isn’t intended to be eaten by real people. If you must watch the show, protect yourself from goat eyeballs on a stick and pig guts with honey.
  12. Buy Higher-Quality Scotch – We can all afford the swill. But it doesn’t improve our lives like the good stuff. When you buy the good stuff, the results trickle down and make the world a better place for all of us.
  13. Buy More Books Locally and/or from Barnes and Noble and Powell’s Books Online – Let’s suppose there’s a bookseller online that’s close to being a monopoly. We don’t have to help it get bigger, do we?
  14. Drink More Tap Water – Studies show us that most of the high-priced bottle water either comes from somebody’s tap rather than the fountain of youth.  Plus, it litters the world with plastic bottles.
  15. Believe in What I Can Imagine – My beliefs are ecclectic, so there’s no reason to feel constrained by fads that don’t have anything new or transcendent in them.


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Awaiting another voice on the new year

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” – T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

Mythologist Joseph Campbell has written that in spite of the seeming chaos of our lives at any given moment, the past when seen in hinsight will appear well-planned. The continuity of our lives was one of my favorite themes in the novel Dune. The image author Frank Herbert used was that of a desert wherein those with second sight who thought they had been wandering could see through meditation the events of their past aligned across the dunes as a perfectly ordered set of footprints leading up to their present location.

We are who we are, I think, and making abrupt changes at the end of a calendar year is unlikely to be effective—and might be dangerous if we knew how to keep those noble resolutions we made during the last days of December.

Author Smoky Zeidel often speaks of the fallow periods in a writer’s life—or, in anyone’s life, for that matter—as periods we should accept and learn from rather than fight. Winter, a time when seeds wait in the darkness of the earth beneath the snow, is symbolic of fallow periods. As in the old story of Taliesin out of pre-Christian Welsh mythology, we germinate in the darkness of the womb and undergo many changes before we emerge into the springtime of our full potential.

Perhaps our hopes and resolutions at the beginning of a new year aren’t really abrupt, desperate or rash changes in personality, lifestyle and direction. They may well be part of our continuing evolution toward our truest dreams, more on course than we realize as the new year approaches.

The Darkness of Winter

The darkness of winter is often said to be synonymous with the underworld, the last place any of us logically want to visit. Yet, the visionaries amongst us say that, like seeds in the soil, all things are born in darkness, arising with a new voice when the time is right.

My 2011 novel Sarabande is, among other things, a story about my protagonist’s descent into the underworld where she will prepare for the next steps in her life. At the moment, I have yet to extricate myself from the underworld I envisioned for my young protagonist because, as Robert Adams discovers in the book, men are not by nature equipped to navigate the dark regions without a guide.

Writing that novel was a learning experience. So, too, is my period of re-acclimation back into the real world. Part of writing is the fallow period that arrives after the writing itself is done. The same process is probably true for most of the major experiences of our lives. Even the best of them might carry us through periods of confusion, depression and even sadness as we gather close around us what we have learned and how we have been changed.

I’ve quoted T. S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” in other year-end posts because I’d rather spend winter with great expectations for my voice of the new year than thrash about in the darkness making rash promises and finely phrased resolutions. The flow of the seasons is (obviously) a natural river of time in the temporal world and whenever I’m pressed to make a resolution, it is “to keep swimming with the current.”