It’s day 2 of the new year. Time to implement those New Year’s resolutions we were dreaming about yesterday—lose weight, get in shape, spend less money, get organized, quit smoking, drink less, get a better job, watch less TV, recycle more, etc. Most of the resolutions we adopt involve self-denial, austerity, a membership in the “pain caucus” where we seek to make life more unpleasant.
This is beyond strange. Isn’t the new year a time of promise and hope? Why do we hope for more pain? Are we so disappointed in ourselves that the only remedy we can imagine is self-flagellation? Most New Year’s resolutions are the moral equivalent of treason on the 4th of July or adultery on Valentine’s Day. Scrooge was a piker compared to what most of us do to New Year’s day with our “resolutions.”
There is one phrase that sums up my approach to New Years’ resolutions: “We live from good soup”.
The Lithuanian philosopher Levinas wrote this. He meant that soup is not merely a means to acquire nutrition or to stave off hunger. We take joy in the soup itself independently of any consequence or goal. And that enjoyment makes up the worth of life. (The enjoyment is not limited to soup but to other basic elements of life such as blue skies, sleep, or good ideas.)
Being at home with oneself in enjoyment, absorbed in the ordinary things around us, is a focal point from which work and possessions have meaning. The particular way we enjoy this absorption is what makes us who we are.
So my New Year’s resolution is always the same, is easy to accomplish, and seldom involves backsliding.
Enjoy more good soup!