Monday, 2 January 2012

2012 - Resolutions

There's a word I was trying to remember earlier on, whilst watching The West Wing (Season 3 Episode 6, 'War Crimes') with my housemate. Bartlet comes back from church ranting about how awful the sermon was, how it lacked panache, and how the preacher fundamentally misunderstood the passage from Ephesians that the sermon was meant to be about. The President's interpretation of the verses was not that they pertained to the relationship between a man and his wife, but that they are all about the passage, "Be subject to one another."

The word I was looking for is accountability. Accountability to one another is incredibly important. It reminds us of our better selves. It reminds us that we shouldn't do stupid, hurtful things to other people. It's a great reality check, except in the case of mass delusion: if I do something or want to do something that I'm not sure of the ethics of, and someone whose judgement I trust agrees with me that it's an okay thing to do or to have done, then that's good enough for me, and it's a stronger indication than just my judgement alone. I'm not saying that one cannot live an ethical life without someone to be accountable to, more that for those of us who are particularly human it can be really useful to have a gate. And sometimes both you and the person you consider yourself accountable to are wrong about something, but somehow that makes it better than just you being wrong. At least, it does for me.

In 2011 I made resolutions at the beginning of the year. Some of them I kept and some of them I failed at, but I didn't really publicise any of them. I told people casually that I was trying to do this, or that, or the other, but I wasn't really accountable to anyone but myself. And that was fine. I didn't need to be, and I don't think I would have succeeded at any more of them if I'd stated my aims publicly at the start of the year. But there's something nice and satisfying about writing my resolutions for 2012 down on some stone tablets at the top of a mountain somewhere in the Holy Land and then proclaiming them to those who care to listen, so to speak.

So I am being accountable here. I don't need or want a cheerleading team, or a stern, authoritarian power outside of myself to shame me into keeping or not keeping them. I just want to let it be known that this is what I hope to achieve this year.

- To read all of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu:

I received a complete translation for Christmas. Never have I been so afraid of a Christmas present in my life.

- To be vegan in January, and to generally eat less dairy in 2012:

I find myself increasingly using cheese as a condiment. I'm hoping that Veganuary will both make me think more about what I cook and eat, and will instil in me a proper and fitting reverence for cheese.

- Not to eat a single Ginsters cheese and onion slice:

This is kind of a subset of Veganuary, and is mostly motivated by the fact that the aforementioned slices do not even slightly resemble food. That they are frequently reduced in the Co Op, and that I am frequently hung over, are not reasonable grounds for putting these monstrous things into my system.

- To be more forgiving and less bearing of grudges:

I come from a long line of grudge-bearers. My mother once didn't speak to her father for six months over a fight they had about a biscuit. I don't want to be that guy, difficult as it can be to let go of stupid, petty things at times. They're always stupid and petty, and life would be better if I didn't hang on to them for a long time, or, ideally, at all.

- To be formally excommunicated from the Catholic Church:

I have been functionally an atheist since the age of five, when a priest could not satisfy me on a point of theology. There have been times in my life when I attempted to find religion, but I'm just not wired for faith. It is ludicrous that a decision could have been made for me at an age when I was not sufficiently intellectually developed to object which is incredibly difficult for me as a rational adult to extricate myself from. It used to be that one could formally defect from the Catholic Church, which was easier to achieve than excommunication, but they closed that loophole in canon law some time in 2010. In order to be excommunicated, I have several options, including assaulting the Pope or a high-up Cardinal (I'm not such a fan of beating up old men, and this might result in a prison sentence), desecrating the Host (this would probably require going to Communion, which I don't want to do) or proving my apostasy. I am very much looking forward to writing the letter by which I intend to declare myself an apostate.

See you in 2013 for an update on how all of these went.


  1. You could desecrate the host by toasting it then smearing Marmite on it perhaps.

    My theological knowledge is not all that strong, so I'm not sure where the RCC stands on whether a smearing of yeast extract interferes with transubstantiation. Toasting would surely kill the baby Jesus inside though.

  2. If you decide to go the "desecrating the host" route, may I join you? I've never tasted the flesh of Christ and am immensely curious. If not, if you like I'll help you pin your letter to a church door by a knife or something.

    I'm not going formally vegan, but I think I may try not having cheese in my house for a while, because I too am falling ever deeper into that "cheese as condiment" morass.

  3. My main fear is that if I attempt Communion, I'll get sidetracked by WINE.

  4. When I read this, it reminded me of something I read recently -- after an hour of searching, I've found it:

    '"There's no word for accountability in Finnish," he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. "Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted."' -- Anu Partanen in The Atlantic, quoting Pasi Sahlberg from the Finnish Ministry of Education (