Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Name Day Lazy Blogger Resolutions

I, like my erstwhile friend and mentor David Warren, do not believe in making 'resolutions' in the post-modern sense. Most particularly am I averse to making "New Year's Resolutions". Such things are pagan and, as Warren points out, doomed to failure anyway.

The resolutions you can still remember on Jan. 3 are the ones you should probably have left off the list. They are the droning resolutions, the tedious resolutions, the mean stoical scraping resolutions that everyone makes, in moments of unseriousness: lose weight, give up smoking, spend less, drink no tequila.

What is the point of such resolutions? They only make us miserable and neurotic. There is enough misery and neurosis to go round. Nine cases in 10 you will fail anyway. Or if there was more than one such item on your list: 10 cases in 10.

I have to admit to having drunk tequila in the past, and, in kinship with many others, after a certain experience deep in the past that was memorable to everyone present but myself, have not touched it in years. There are other things of that sort here and there. I have not read a great deal of cheap scientifiction since leaving my twenties, for example.

But resolutions of the sort recommended by Mr. Warren
I will take up drawing; I will master the flute; I will read Shakespeare; I will listen to Bach; I will keep a commonplace book; I will learn to cook; I will learn to dance; I will take my children on picnics; I will write love letters to my wife; I will give money in secret; I will volunteer at a hospital; I will visit at a prison; I will go to church every Sunday.

are of the sort that I think can and should be made regularly, not just saved to the end of the year. It is, of course, to be remembered that these more positive, and even occasionally salvific resolutions are also mostly doomed to failure, but they at least do not reek of the kind of cynicism that characterises the others. And, in accordance with the doctrines of St. Philip Neri and his disciples, it is better to choose something positive and keep doggedly trying to do it, even in the face of repeated failure, than take on, and then inevitably abandon, vague and impossible tasks out of ill-informed guilt.

Today is the feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers, the bishop who was one of the very few who refused to deny the divinity of Christ at the height of the Arian crisis. He is, therefore, a saint not only for our times but for our particular ecclesial troubles. He is also a good saint for stubborn and willful people, to show us that being stubborn and willful can be put to good and holy uses.

A good day to decide to use one's stubborn willfulness to some good end.

That I must stop doing a number of things that are spiritually or physically harmful, though enjoyable, more or less goes without saying by anyone living on planet earth, and so are not really worth mentioning here. But aren't there, for all of us, all sorts of things that have remained undone? Neglected? And for the most paltry and measly reasons.

Why, for example, have I not done any drawing in years? I live in Italy and am surrounded daily by some of the world's greatest works of art and architecture?

Why have I not worked on my novel in a year?

Why have I not started making that tweed suit that I've been thinking of for three years?

How long has it been since I've done any knitting?

More immediately, how come I've stopped writing anything interesting on the blog? It's been four years on this site, with occasional breaks, and I was just looking back on some older posts and noticed that I used to write things.

I was complaining yesterday that I've not really been writing lately. What I do for a living involves words, but it is not really writing. Just data gathering, really. So what happened? Did I just run out of ideas?

I have nothing more to offer as excuse than "I'm busy." Busy doing what? If I were being honest, I would say, "Busy pfaffing about on the internet."

So, I would like first to apologise to my little clutch of readers who have been with me for years (Andrew, BillyHW, Dale, Six-Bells John, the 3 Roberts, Nick T., Evil Steve et al) for having been...well...boring in the last year or so. You're a great bunch of chaps, so I know you're all going to say nice things like "Oh, you've been doing all sorts of things, moving to other countries, dealing with big personal stuff," etc. and of course, you're right. But I've just read Steve's little New Year's Resolution post (which, true to Lazy Blogger form was posted on January 5th)

Bit by bit, I’m building back some blogging momentum. It feels sort of like putting on a pair of old sneakers after you’ve been wearing the new ones for a while - strange, but oddly familiar.

and I have to say, "What he said."

A lot has changed around this site over the last couple of years. I changed from being The Devout Life and having pictures of saints in the sidebar, from writing about religion and The Meaning of Life, to embracing my secular side and mostly posting photos and little snippy comments about the news, watched over on the sidebar by the elder gods of English satirical writing. I thought I'd make a transition, away from "Catholic blogging" to more general writing on a broader variety of things. But I've really sort of fallen from the true Blogger Way. I've gone from being fairly prolific to the blogger version of sleepwalking and "phoning it in". And I can't claim busyness. It's sheer laze and apathy.

So, in honour of St. Hilary, the Scourge of the Arian heretics, I think I'm going to write more here. Have a bit more fun, get in a bit more trouble, stir things up a bit. Maybe it will be like the good old days.



Steve said...

Glad to hear it!

And, in fairness to the venerable tradition of making new year's resolutions, we humans are oddly temporal in that way. We feel that we need some reason, some fresh unit of time in which to employ that improvement we've been putting off.

I think resolutions actually work for goal setters - also known as those people who are successful in life, among whom I have never been counted.

It's as good a time as any to start on new endeavors, it simply shouldn't be the only time.

Mark S. Abeln said...

Many of the successful goal-setters I've known have been some of the most selfish, greedy, and uncharitable people I've ever met.

Folks who can successfully diet, I've noticed, often beat others into submission as much as they beat their own bodies into submission.

According to St. Thomas, pertinacity is the opposite vice to the vice of effeminacy, and is opposed to the virtue of perseverance. Folks who pursue their goals - come hell or high water - often show pertinacity instead of perseverance.

Mark S. Abeln said...

Oh, and I really like your photos, each of which is worth at least 1000 words.

Anonymous said...

As one of the loyal clutch of readers albeit a mostly anonymous one who has not embraced an internet persona of mine own outside the workplace, I continue to appreciate your blogging, Hilary, enjoying your posts (and your articles for Lifesite) and almost always learning something new from each one.


N. Trandem said...

Never boring! And besides, who am I to blame someone for not blogging much recently? ;-)

Mark S. Abeln said...


See if you can get your employer to send you to this: Oratory to Offer Mass for Journalists.

Not likely, I know.

Anonymous said...

It was also the commemoration of St Felix. What you need is another cat named Felix. Then we could celebrate Sts Hilary and Felix each year with tequila and tuna or something appropriate like that.

Anonymous said...

I, too, like the photos you're putting up about buildings and statues in Rome. If you need a topic, how about "The Importance of Art."