Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'The secret of happiness is t'

The new year is the time we're expected get our houses in order, improve our outlooks, resolve to answer our better lights. A new broom and all that. For my part, this bit of self-agitation always strikes me as arbitrary, the date upon which we are expected to suddenly slough off a jaded, fatalistic, weary soul in exchange for a bright, sanguine, bubbly one full of resolution, brio and the breathless anticipation of Kenneth Parcell. 

(Can't wait to see what happens next)

Turn the old jade out to pasture every January, until within a season it is standing patiently back in the psychic barnyard once more. I've never been one to make resolutions, neither caring much for arbitrary demarcations nor wishing to set myself up for likely failure. So I march blithely on year after succeeding year while my compeers fork over good money and their scant stores of emotional energy for gym memberships, weight loss regimens, therapy sessions, marriage counseling, surgical implants, Great Courses DVDs, and so on. Somehow we're all required to fumble through this each twelvemonth.

By all indications it will be easier than ever to ignore the moral demands of self-improvement in the coming year if all the rumors are correct and the world likely to come screeching to an end anyway. Even if it doesn't I'll be none the worse off, even if I'm none the better, for my constitutional recalcitrance where my own improvement is concerned. It goes without saying that happiness, however we each conceive it, is what we're all after. But it's never entirely clear that the payoff for all this resolve is always an increase in happiness.

At the risk of taking back everything I've just resolved not to do (make any resolutions), there are some things I probably won't do any longer. I'm not resolving not to do anything, just speculating that I'll (probably) neglect to do some things without actively resolving to neglect doing them, if you see what I'm trying to say. For example, voting. Not voting may not prove a big deal in an election year, even presuming against considerable expectation to the contrary that the world continues. But, as electoral outcomes are increasingly on offer to the highest bidder, I'm at an age when I couldn't care less. From now on I'm taking it as street theater.

(Taking unpaid leave from job at QuickMart)

Nor do I expect that I'll take up any new hobbies this year. My neighbors, Zeno and Conchita, are avid mah jongg players and initiated me to the arcania of this oriental rite, one that has considerable cachet among the Jewish dowagers of Miami and military spouses too old for adultery. I proved a grudging student - the game requires a level of familiarity and concern beyond what I'm able to muster, employing countless tiles in various suits, colors, winds, numbers and honors. In addition, it requires the Asperger-like will to keep track of who's played which of these how many times and why. The possible combinations and point values stagger the memory and flummox the imagination. Mah jongg is like an astronomical version of five-card poker and, like poker, the only way to take it seriously is to wager your house, your personal modesty and your childrens' lives on its outcome. I can barely hold my own at checkers and abandoned Monopoly when I was seven. I'd rather relearn Latin.

Regular exercise?

"Wallet is . . .uhh. . . in my locker."

Admittedly I'm just lazy enough to think that there might be a shortcut to happiness - some way of getting there without all the resolutions, health club memberships, orthopedic devices, foreswearing of potato chips and all that. The other day I thought I had it, thought I might be home free, the real bluebird of happiness just within reach. Oh, well . . .

. . . foiled again

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