Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year Resolutions 2015

New Year Resolutions

Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. But their New Year was in March, with an 11-day festival.

The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is name.

In America, a report stated that “overall, 57 percent of Americans report making health-related New Year’s resolutions in the past, while 52 percent say they’ve addressed their relationship with God. “

But many people no longer believe in gods or a god, so why do they still make resolutions? After all, should we fail, we will not incur thunderstorms, mighty winds, and floods. We know that those are not a punishment for keeping our promises, leading to increasingly violent weather.

Or perhaps they are, and we have forgotten the most important promise: to act as stewards of the Earth. Our use of the world as a consumer resource, and as a dustbin, our disregard for the consequences of our actions, all have led to problems, be it green sea lettuce fuelled by chemical nitrates we pour on the land, or the increases in carbon dioxide in the air and oceans bringing climate change. We have brought about our own nemesis.

Greed causes development on flood plains, with the approval and blessing of governments, who look for short term solutions, and ignore the greater picture.

The world’s resources are capital and interest, and as E.F. Schumacher warned us – oil is one of the capital resources. So too are those rare elements we need for our snazzy new smart phones. There will come a time when the capital runs out. But each successive generation seems to assume it is in the distant future, and by then we will have alternative technologies. What if we don’t have them in time?

Can we make New Year resolutions that help the planet? I hope we can.

Feeble though they are, my own New Year resolutions are an attempt to do that::

To strive to live more simply
To buy more local produce
To recycle more
To clear out a lot of stuff I don’t use
To finish that poetry booklet

And to lose 1 stone in weight by eating more carefully!

And lastly, the Medieval era saw knights take a 'peacock vow' at the end of Christmas season each year in an attempt to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.

Of course life in the Middle Ages was largely brutal, even in warfare, but the notion of “chivalry” is a good one in its later manifestations: "to be representative of true culture means to produce by conduct, by customs, by manners, by costume, by deportment, the illusion of a heroic being, full of dignity and honour, of wisdom, and, at all events, of courtesy. ...The dream of past perfection ennobles life and its forms, fills them with beauty and fashions them anew as forms of art" as Johan Huizinga, described it in “The Waning of the Middle Ages”.

Somehow, I think we need to capture that ideal again, especially in public and political life, where it is so often sadly lacking.

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