New Year’s Resolutions

… some Review Principles for 2016:
(c) 2016, Davd

Because i had to re-install my Linux operating system New Year’s Eve, this post not only won’t get up that day; by the time it is published, it will be January 2nd in English time, which for some reason, seems to be what the everyman.ca web server uses. But New Year’s Resolutions are famous for not being kept. If you’re not going to commit the effort to keep them, don’t say them. This is about making resolutions worth keeping. It might help you make resolutions after The Day, or edit those you made.

Remember, this is voluntary. You don’t need to make New Year’s Resolutions! And if a “resolution” is not expressing your personal philosophy of life, it is really not yours—it’s somebody else’s resolution imposed on you. For instance, if you are fat, overweight anyway, and you’re getting pressured to resolve to lose weight, that’s not a resolution, it’s a capitulation. If the person putting on the weight loss pressure is your Mother, or your wife, or anyone who cooks your food—then rather than resolve to lose weight, you can agree to eat what they cook for you—but there are better ways to lose weight than “dieting,” as we shall see.

That same classic post-holiday resolution, “to lose weight”, is fine if you want to weigh less badly enough, to plan how you will lose that weight. Then it’s a real resolution. I intend to lose some weight myself, but i’m not making that a resolution. In the form of a resolution, i’m resolving to get out of the Big City1 to someplace where i get lots of exercise, including arm and shoulder muscle exercise, and have men friends around me... and the guiding principles that follow all support that… indeed, helped me to word it.

1. Don’t let Feminism, or any other-people’s perspective, be a basis for how you think and feel about yourself! Because this is a men’s website, and Feminism has been “Politically Correct” lately, it’s the ideology, the perspective, that i name first; but it’s not the only one that may try to tell you how to think and feel.

Instead of letting some ideology from outside tell you what to think and-or feel, make personal choices of perspective and “ideology”. Choose your outlooks, and your beliefs. Maybe you have chosen perspective[s] and beliefs already; if not, spending some time this year, choosing and clarifying your philosophy of life, would be an excellent specific New Year’s Resolution.

Personally, i’m Christian, meaning i have thought long and reflectively about the Christian Faith, the teachings of Jesus, and decided voluntarily to make it one of my perspectives. Not the only one—probabilistic science is another perspective that is mine by choice, and overlapping with probabilistic science, there’s ecology. Those perspectives influence what i think and feel because i have chosen them. But Feminism, i never chose, nor profit-motive capitalism, nor bureaucratic socialism—nor even the notion that punishment is the best way to motivate good behaviour. Those ideologies, those ways of seeing things, are foreign to me. Living in the countryside, there’s less pressure from them.

Refusing to let your mind be pushed around by Political Correctness, choosing and clarifying your philosophy of life, are not easy resolutions to keep. Don’t kick yourself too hard if you notice a “slip-up”. Do stop and ask, when a foreign ideology or perspective tries to boss your mind around—what’s a better basis than that, for how i feel and think? If you don’t have a philosophy of life, then forming one, or more than one, is a good resolution just because it gives you something better than yielding to social pressures, to live by.

Along with a philosophy and perspectives of your own, comes an appreciation of the difference between pleasing others by choosing company who find you pleasing, and making it the reason you do things you’d rather not.

2. Don’t try too hard to please anyone else—especially not a woman who thnks it’s your duty to please her. In my Christian philosophy of life, one of the Teachings is: Don’t judge others. Assess them, if it seems fitting, as i’ll assess “Geoff”, below; but don’t judge them and, reversing the direction, don’t let them judge you. Be good, in the sense of the classic virtues, but don’t be nice. “Being nice” amounts to letting somebody else judge your worth.

It can make sense, short of letting someone’s feelings be the chief influence on your conduct, to let people of both sexes influence you naturally. Pleasing someone is better than not pleasing him, if it costs you no more to please. It might be better if it costs you a little more to please. It’s not if you have to go to a great deal of trouble.

And you might just have noticed—i wrote “pleasing him”, not “… her”. Most of the readers of this site are men; and we are more like other men than we are like women, indeed, the sexes are more different than the races. Which implies, we benefit more from learning from other men. And because they’re more like us, other men will usually be easier and more enjoyable to please.

3. Give Yourself Enough Elbow Room: In Time, in Money, in Space:

There’s a friend i’d like to see more of, talk longer with, but he’s always “behind”. He’s late to meetings, late to meet friends, late getting home to his family. (I’ll call him Geoff because he is English and Geoff is no part of his real name.) Geoff is late for ‘most everything except his church services (which are always the same time Sunday morning). He makes promises he doesn’t turn out to have time to keep—not on rare occasions, but more often than not, that i’ve noticed.

Geoff calls himself an extrovert, and feels good about that. For other people to feel good about it also, he needs to discipline that extroversion. And even more important, he needs to provide enough time in his planning, to be available, to be present, close to when he says he will be. I’ve started avoiding Geoff, started viewing him as unreliable, not because he lacks good will or competence, but because he lacks time. He expects things to go smoothly, to take a practical efficient minimum of time, always—and that’s not realistic.

It’s not realistic to expect everything to take the length of time you estimated it would—even if you are very good at estimating. It’s not even realistic to expect traffic to always flow smoothly, or a chore to take the usual length of time. It’s not realistic to expect no interruptions if you walk to a meeting. It’s not even realistic to expect appointments to begin on time—if they did, waiting rooms would be far smaller than they are.

Allow time for “random errors and interruptions”! If you go to an appointment, a class with a scheduled time, a church service, or a meeting, plan to be ten minutes early if the journey is short (walking a few hundred metres, for instance); fifteen minutes early if it’s a few kilometres, half an hour early if it’s an hour or more one way, and an hour early if it’s two hours or more. Have something to do if you arrive early—a nearby library, for instance, a shopping errand, or some notes to work on. But if you can talk with somebody you know who’s also prudently early, and don’t see often, do that instead. Keeping your network active is a benefit of arriving early!

(Mobile phones can be used almost anywhere; so if you do have a wait of more than ten or fifteen minutes—get out your mobile phone, and you should easily find people to call and “touch base with”, people you’ve wanted to call, even phoning and “texting” chores you have to do “sometime soon” that you can do now, while you’re waiting.)

I could conjure up more examples, but i think you get the pattern: Add extra time into your schedule to make room for the random unpredictability of life. Don’t fill the day cram full with appointments, meetings, tasks that need specific times. Leave room for delays and for opportunities to keep up your friendships.

In the case of money, “elbow room” isn’t so clear, because you can borrow money but you can’t borrow time. My own philosophy has been “stay out of debt”, all the way back to my student years. I have not kept it perfectly, but i have borrowed less, for shorter times, and lived more simply, than other men (or women, that i have noticed) with similar incomes. I believe this old-fashioned perspective on money has served me well.

As for space, my resolution to get out of the Big City says much: I want to meet more people i know than people i don’t, in a day. I want to go for walks with Fritz and when he lifts his leg on a tree or a post, i want to be able to do likewise, not have to drag him back to the house early so i can use a toilet. And i can say from recent experience, that walking outdoors with other men i know, i can fertilize a tree instead of hurrying indoors to piss, and they won’t mind. Strangers are another matter.

What “enough elbow room” means specifically for you, i won’t say; maybe you have enough elbow room in your time, your personal space, and your finances, now. If you know you don’t have, a New Year’s Resolution is a good way to “explain” a change to fewer promises and more free hours, less spending and more saving.

Some of your “elbow room” time can best be spent, if you don’t use it up on delays, doing useful, manual work… work that can save you money and grow you healthier food than the stores typically have, and rural spaces make it easier.

4. Value manual labour is my fourth New Year’s Resolution guideline: Manual labour is good for your health and your thinking power. Exercise helps you avoid overweight, even reduce your weight if you’re overweight now. Twenty minutes a day ought to be your minimum.

Walking counts as exercise, and i do a lot of it myself; but a study done recently on 54 older women, showed that “upper body resistance training” (muscle building) stopped “white matter” brain deterioration while balance and flexibility exercise did not. And the muscle building participants also maintained a youthful walking speed. (As the CBC News article said, “gait often slows about 10 years before cognitive impairment.” That normal walking speed implied ten more years, for most of them, of thinking competence.) The MRI images and the walking speed both indicated, that keeping and improving their upper body strength went with keeping their brains functioning well.

Walking is good for you; letting your muscles atrophy above the waist is bad for you. And a lot of men’s work is “upper body resistance exercise”: Digging your garden by hand counts. Chopping firewood counts. Changing tires by hand, counts. Helping a friend or relative build a house or a garage, counts. Even pushing a lawn mower instead of riding one, counts. Shoveling snow counts, this time of year.

So if the job’s manageable, do shovel that snow. Do dig your garden with a spading fork. Do keep using a push mower. And do get in your own firewood: If the wood is really big in diameter, say over a foot across, accept that neighbour’s loan of a hydraulic splitter—and then go help him load, unload, and pile his firewood, to get the “upper body resistance exercise” the machine spared you, in an easier form.

Manual Labour, in the forms you most enjoy it or need to get it done, is good for your body and also for your mind. 20Th Century society over-mechanized “work”. Many things can best be done by skilled human muscle, and men have significantly more of that muscle on average, than women. Now we’re learning just how valuable manual work is to the worker, as well as the ecological state of the Earth and thus, the human condition overall.

5. Include plenty of buddy time in your future. My father went bowling and fishing, played squash and snooker, with a total of maybe two dozen buddies from work, from college, from church. He was active in the Elks Club (membership was much more widespread in his time than it seems to be today) and in his fifties, joined the Masons and became a Shriner.

My grandfather2 lived on the other side of town, near where he worked before retirement; and kept in touch with the men “from the shop.” He also had a few women friends who were buddies of a sort; i think their common interest was gardening. He belonged to the Odd Fellows, a lodge which has declined even more than the Elks. Like my father, he counted buddy time as a normal and important part of his day to day life.

Buddies—the word seems obviously to have formed as a variant of brothers—have the sort of “male bonding” relationship that men formed hunting together in prehistoric times. Men bond by sharing hard co-operative work and at least a little adversity. Violence is not a requisite. Sports can and often do substitute for the work of hunting, fishing, farming, and teamwork generally (in Grandfather’s case, maintaining railroad equipment.) Boys who grow up as brothers, bond by sharing chores and the adversities of school. I doubt if urban office work or solitary work like bus driving, can bond men like barn raising, harvesting together, fishing together, or being together on a sports [or charity] team.

For some men today, especially urban men, the first task is finding the buddies. Sports are one way that often succeeds. Hobbies, and church men’s programs, can lead to buddy friendships. Choosing a line of work where you will have plenty of men co-workers and plenty of time to work with them rather than separately, might be the best way to assure having buddies; most skilled manual tradesmen seem to have several.

Feminism attacked all-men organizations in the last century; but blessed and praised all-women organizations. That’s neither equal nor good human social life; in an old folk saying, “Turnabout is fair play.”

If you are married, or “cohabiting”, the woman in your house probably spends considerable time with her women friends. You are equally entitled to spend comparable time with men friends… and you have equal claim to supervise her women friendships, as she has to supervise your men friendships. In my boyhood years, the main rightful limit on same sex friendships, was the avoidance of using them as a means to adultery or the appearance of pursuing it.

(And it’s a sign of gender inequality, that i even saw any need to write those last two paragraphs.)

It is with your buddies that you will form much of your perspective on and philosophy of everyday life. In the days before history when human nature was being formed, men and women lived in tribes of a few dozen to a few hundred people. Men and women usually slept with a spouse, but spent more of their waking and working hours in same-sex company. Most people, including most men, would probably be happier living in that kind of social context, the one that formed our nature. It provided men [and women] with plenty of buddy time, plenty of manual, arm and hand and shoulder work, plenty of uncommitted time to philosophize and to catch up on unfinished tasks that had not got done as fast as predicted, little pressure to cater to the feelings of the other sex (and even less toleration for cruelty.)

I encourage you to reflect on those five “guiding principles,” maybe even memorize them. I also encourage you to reflect on how well they are calls to “be true to your nature.” An old short maxim-in-a-verse, famous when i was a university student, put it this way:

This above all: To thine own self, be true
and it will follow as the night the day
that thou cannot be false to any man.

References:

Lenski, Gerhard, Jean Lenski, and Patrick Nolan, 1991. Human Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. 333-5:

Turnbull, Colin M.1968. The Forest People. NY: Simon and Schuster paperback.

Notes:

1. I’m in a Big City now because i spent the autumn on prostate cancer treatment. Click that link and it will take you to the first of the Movember blogs,.. seven of them in total.

2. .. the one i knew as a boy. My other grandfather lived 800 miles away and i only met him once or twice.

 

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About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together “in peace and brotherhood” for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.

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