Me and Elia Ring in 2008
"Every man," Charles Lamb wrote, "hath two birth-days: two days, at least, in every year, which set him upon revolving the lapse of time, as it affects his mortal duration." He goes on to say, "No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference. It is that from which all date their time, and count upon what is left. It is the nativity of our common Adam."
I don't really tend to make New Year's resolutions anymore-- not because I've achieved some level of perfection (or even satisifaction with who and how I am), but because I'm realistic. I might resolve to stick to an exercise schedule-- run three days out of the week, swim every morning, whatever-- but that will go by the wayside at some point before mid-semester. And then I'll just hate myself even more. And who needs that? I will say that I plan to eat healthier and exercise more than I have in the past month or so, but that's not a resolution so much as prediction-- now that the holidays are over, there won't be so many casseroles, and I'll have more time for sit-ups.
So while self-improvement isn't a huge priority, I do find myself considering all that I've failed to do with my life so far, and how I might try to get more of this stuff done in 2007. I was talking to a friend at MLA a couple days ago and said, "If I could just get the book out I'd be completely satisfied with my life forever," and he gently reminded me that, at different times, I'd said "If I could just get one publication..." or "If I could just get a tenure-track job..." The more I have, the more I want. Nevertheless, the book weighs heavily on my mind these days. The great rejection of 2007 said, essentially, that the book wasn't depressing enough, and that the narrator seemed unreliable in his positive outlook and general good humor in certain places (not in others, like when he flips out and screams at his mother or broods upon the exciting sex life he just knows his ex-girlfriend is enjoying even while he suffers through chemotherapy treatments). An unreliable narrator can be a useful literary device, but not in a memoir, which is what my book is. So that one stung.
The memoir's been put on the back-burner at the moment, though, as I've now embarked on creating a collection of linked essays that I'm more excited about. Maybe 2008 will be kind to that book.
Otherwise, there's not a whole hell of a lot to be dissatisfied with. Not in my personal or professional lives, anyway. Good job. Great colleagues. Strong, happy marriage-- I found out at MLA that my relationship is the envy of some of my friends, which is nice to know. I'm not sure how that happened-- we're both quite crazy, but in compatible ways, I suppose. My parents and siblings all seem happy and healthy, as do my friends. And I guess I'd rather have that than a book (but can't I please please please have both?).
Culturally, I think 2008 will be better than the last few years. I think compassion is fashionable again, and that people in America are becoming kinder and more reflective. Not all of them, mind you-- I was just in Aurora, Illinois, where people still have obnoxious signs in their yard arguing against providing affordable health care to women. But still-- we're going to be getting rid of Dennis Hastert, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush. 2008 will be great, if only for that.
New Indiana Jones, Batman, Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man movies this summer. New episodes of David Letterman with the participation of the WGA. New studio album from R.E.M. New episodes of Battlestar Galactica. A new Paul Thomas Anderson film based on an Upton Sinclair novel starring Daniel Day Lewis (technically, this is a 2007 thing, but by the time I get around to seeing it...). The final trade paperback of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol comics from the early 90s. Yep. Entertainiment in 2008 looks downright... entertaining.
I know I said at the start of this blog post that I don't really make New Year's resolutions, and I don't. But I do periodically resolve to try to be a better, more open-minded person-- even when I just know I'm right-- and I guess that on this day, one of my two birth-days, I can go ahead and try to recommit myself to being more tolerant of and respectful towards those I disagree with. To avoid the arrogant certainty that I always know what's right. That's not to say that I'll keep my convictions to myself or avoid passionate disagreement, but I'll be more careful-- in the coming year-- to remember that people themselves don't deserve my hatred, no matter how loathesome or destructive their ideologies may be. People are to be loved, pitied, and/or feared-- never hated, regardless of what they believe.
Well, people who think that my sense of humor makes me an unreliable narrator in my own book about my own experiences, maybe...
Happy New Year, one and all.
"Of all sounds of all bells--(bells, the music nighest bordering upon heaven)--most solemn and touching is the peal which rings out the Old Year. I never hear it without a gathering-up of my mind to a concentration of all the images that have been diffused over the past twelvemonth; all I have done or suffered, performed or neglected--in that regretted time. I begin to know its worth, as when a person dies."
-- Charles Lamb, "New Year's Eve"