New Year Resolutions
2023 Will Be a Very Good Year...
2023 will be the year that I finally stop procrastinating and start being proactive — or at least that’s what I kept telling myself throughout 2022. To that end, I am going to make a few New Years’ resolutions to carpe anum . . .
Getting in Shape
I, Daniel D, do hereby resolve that this year I will sign up for a trial gym membership, that I will show up at the gym three times per week, and that I will not really work out or anything, but will instead just kind of pretend to exercise while ogling the females and annoying the other guys with idle chitchat while they are out of breath from actually working out. I’ll just kind of sit around, take up space, get in the way, and then disappear after three weeks or the expiration of my trial membership, whichever occurs first. After January, you won’t see me in a gym again until the beginning of next year, when I do the same thing all over again . . .
(But seriously, folks . . .)
I do plan to get in better shape this year. I will get back on Tim Ferriss’s “Slow-Carb Diet.” For about six months in 2020, I followed a half-assed version of this diet and maintained a half-assed exercise routine (using some of the insights from Ferriss’s book The 4-Hour Body to work-out smarter rather than harder), and I lost about 40 pounds while gaining muscle. Unfortunately, since going off of that diet in late 2020, I have gradually regained some of the fat and lost some of of the muscle, and I am well into that vicious cycle of less physical activity leading to lower energy levels, leading to less physical activity, leading to lower energy levels, etc. To borrow from The Serenity Prayer as canonized in recovery-group literature, I need to “change the things I can,” and my diet and exercise are definitely things I can change that I know will have noticeable positive effects.
The Slow-Carb Diet is similar to Keto, but it is much, much better. First, there’s a “cheat day” built into it, which helps you psych yourself out when you experience cravings: you keep a list in your pocket of the foods to which you will treat yourself on your next cheat day, and whenever another craving hits, you just take out the list and write down the food you are craving, promising yourself that you will indulge your craving on your upcoming cheat day. Somehow, the part of your brain that’s craving the food will respond favorably to this: “Okay, my desires have been noted and will be met this Saturday!” And then that part of your brain shuts the hell up! It stops bothering you with cravings! This weird Jedi Mind Trick works surprisingly well.
The second reason Slow-Carb is much better than Keto is that Slow-Carb includes plenty of fiber on the menu, so you stay regular. If you’re on a diet where you will be retaining weight in one part of your body, I cannot think of any place worse to retain weight than the large intestine. I would rather keep the weight around my waist than amass bulk in my colon. The tendency of Keto to cause constipation is a deal-breaker for me. Slow Carb is the way to go.
Kick the Delta 8 Habit
For those of you who don’t know (or for those of you who live in a state where regular weed is legal), Delta 8 is an amazing loophole in the War on Drugs, created by the Farm Bill of 2018, which removed Hemp from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). In my state, which is in the buckle of the nation’s Bible Belt, weed is still verboten, but Delta 8 is readily available, including as edibles or tinctures that you can imbibe. Delta 8 is “weed lite” when smoked or vaped, but if you ingest it, your body seems to metabolize it in much the same way as the real thing, giving the ensuing high more of a psychedelic tinge, which I have found extremely useful as a catalyst for meditation and engaging in self-therapy. But as with many things, the line between a helpful dosage and one that amounts to way too much of a good thing is blurry and easily transgressed, and I have probably been on the wrong side of that line for far too long now. As in, I definitely notice the de-motivating effects for which pot is infamous, and I am sure that taking hemp-seed oil has done absolute wonders for my testosterone levels, which I should probably start caring more about as I get older.
Of course, the trick here will be weaning myself off of Delta 8 without weaning myself onto whiskey, with which I have had a love-hate relationship (I love whiskey; whiskey hates my freaking guts!). Sticking to the Slow-Carb Diet will definitely help here (drinking whiskey is like drinking liquid bread in terms of carbs).
We’re social creatures, yet as Robert Putnam noted back in the 1990s(!), we are increasingly “bowling alone.” Meanwhile, our great mental health experts have determined that we 21st-Century humans are depressed because our brain chemistry is out of whack, and that we need to fix our brains with prescription antidepressants (which are heavily subject to the law of diminishing returns, though their unpleasant side-effects seem not to be). The experts also recommend therapies, such as working on reframing our perceptions using Stoic mind-games (a la Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), or talking endlessly about our childhood traumas, or whatever the hell the current wisdom says.
Imagine coal miners complaining of chronic breathing problems and being told, “Oh, your lung chemistry is out of whack! What you need is more albuterol in your system to open up those airways! Once you get your lung chemistry back into balance with this medication, you’ll be feeling healthy as an ox! Ready to go back into those mines and breathe in all that coal dust!” Or imagine a black-lung patient being given therapy where they are told, “Just imagine being suffocated by a Burmese Python wrapped around your neck, and that will help put your current breathing difficulties into perspective! Reframing your current problems will help you feel better!” Yeah. Sure. That might help in the short-term, but not as a substitute for addressing the actual toxins in the air that the miners are breathing: either they need to change their environment, or they need to leave that environment, because that environment is killing them.
In our day, there are many harmful cultural forces at play, each interrelated and having multiplier effects on the harms that each of them cause. There’s “Future Shock,” the widespread culture shock experienced by entire generations as they find themselves thrust by the passage of time into an alien culture — in their own homeland, with no way to go back home to the culture of their childhoods or young adulthoods, not even for a brief visit. Alvin Toffler wrote the book on Future Shock back in 1970(!); holy crud, talk about a prophet ahead of his time! The accelerating rate of change — culturally, technologically, and economically — since 1970 has been cataclysmic for the human psyche, and for the most part, our stone-age emotions and mediaeval institutions have not kept up.
This runaway rate of change has brought us to the end of our collective illusions. As the writer of Contemplations on the Tree of Woe has noted in his incisive essay Why Has our World Gone So Crazy?, “Our contemporary consensus is not just wrong here and there, not just mildly out of step on reality. It is wrong on the fundamentals.” And more and more people know this to be true, even if they can’t articulate how or why it’s true or what it means. Today’s zeitgeist is completely worn out, like a blurry-eyed drunk staggering home on New Year’s Day after a wild night of fighting and fucking. A new day has dawned, and it does not belong to the idols worshipped in the postmodern West; even though their cult seems to be as powerful as ever, it is running on fumes now, left over energy and enthusiasm from an era when they actually were the counterculture, with most of the true artists and free-thinkers on their side. Today’s Left has about as much in common with Woodstock (1969, not the reboot in the late 1990s) as the Catholic Church of 1517 had in common with the ancient Christians meeting in secret in the catacombs of Rome. A Reformation is already in the works; the mainstream media just hasn’t decided to cover the story yet (and by the time they do, it will already be old news).
In the meantime, here’s something that really hasn’t changed all that much over the past 50 years: Human Nature. And here’s something about Human Nature that hasn’t changed much since our prehistoric hunter-gatherer days (or nomadic-shepherd days or subsistence-farmer days): we need fellowship. And not just BS small-talk during one-off marketplace interactions with random people, but real, meaningful relationships with people we can talk to when we feel like we’re going crazy in this brave new world being created like a Frankenstein’s Monster for us by the Military-Big Pharma-Big Government-Big Tech-Big Central Bank-Industrial Complex.
So this year, I will focus on fostering fellowship. I will host gatherings in my own home, which is something I haven’t done much of since COVID hit — not because of COVID, but because after I got divorced in February 2020, everything was locked down, and I had the kids staying mostly with me during the months that they were out of school (supposedly doing virtual learning), and we got a bunch more pets to help liven things up since everything was shut down and everyone was cooped up indoors much of the time, and my kids and my herd of household pets pretty much wrecked the place, making our home generally unfit for having company over. And by “company,” I don’t mean close family or friends, I mean people you recently met and would like to get to know better, but because you don’t yet know them very well, maintaining some minimal level of appearances and making good first impressions still matter. So this year, I will get my home squared away and start hosting monthly get-togethers.
Getting Unstuck Creatively
I have some ideas for things I want to try out in 2023 to get unstuck creatively/artistically. I’m still trying to find my niche. In the introduction of Demian, Herman Hesse said that human beings are the points where the world’s phenomena intersect in unique and unrepeatable ways. In my case, those phenomena also seem to meet in very weird and completely contradictory ways. When this happens, it can (but does not always) lead to great art, but it is usually not conducive of happiness or stability in Life. I am a certifiable weirdo; weirdos tend to be overrepresented among artists and creative types; and weirdos typically feel hopelessly out of place in their cultural milieu. The trick is finding a way to tap into your inner Muse and express it through your own weird perspective and personality in a way that other people can relate to and find meaningful and entertaining.
I suppose the experience of being a weirdo has best been captured by Brian Wilson in the Beach Boys’ song “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times.”
I am nowhere near as talented or visionary as Brian Wilson was — but apart from three of the four Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and possibly Roger Waters on his best days collaborating with David Gilmour, who else is even close to that level? I mean, just listen to Sloop John B or Wouldn’t It Be Nice on a decent pair of headphones. And to make it even better, listen to it about two to three hours after taking an edible (hemp-derived Delta 8 for those of you where the real thing is illegal) — which is something I will definitely NOT be doing this year, since I am getting off of Delta 8, as stated above . . . But just listen to those lush harmonies! Forget Phil Spector; the Beach Boys were the real “wall of sound!” I’ll get back to the subject of New Year Resolutions momentarily, but real quick, just listen to Sloop John B on headphones:
Anyway, I don’t have anything close to Brian Wilson’s level of genius, but I can definitely relate to the sentiments he expressed on “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times.”
For artists and creative types who do not fit neatly into any single category or genre, their weirdness or uniqueness (depending on how you frame it) is both a blessing and a curse: the curse is that you pretty much have to chart your own path, with only your own muse to guide you, because there is no readily available, pre-established format or style for you to use to bring your art to the marketplace, but the blessing is . . . that you pretty much have to chart your own path, with only your own muse to guide you, because there is no readily available, pre-established format or style for you to use to bring your art to the marketplace. If done right, this is a potentially high-risk/high-reward strategy: if you succeed, you can succeed in a big way, because you are unique; but odds are that you will not succeed, because most people like what is already familiar, and your style or presentation, being unique (or weird, depending again on how you frame it), is unfamiliar to them, so they will be skeptical and probably won’t give you a chance unless you are really fucking good. As Steve Martin put it, you have to “be so good they can’t ignore you.”
For an artist who fits comfortably within an established genre, it’s relatively easy: the market is already there, so you don’t have to create it anew. You just go do what you do, and hopefully you get good enough that the people who are already looking for that genre will like what you’re doing, at least as much as they like anyone else already doing work in that genre.
But for the artist who is really doing something new that doesn’t fit neatly within an existing genre, you have to create the genre and build your own audience for it. And if you’re just an unknown amateur starting out, that takes a lot of work. And it is difficult to put in the required work and be consistent about it unless you are extremely dedicated and disciplined.
In mid 2022, I had something of an existential crisis in terms of my art: am I serious about this shit or not? I’m a middle-aged divorced dad who is the primary caretaker of my kids, but I fortunately do have a job that has a relatively easy work schedule (though this is also a dead-end job that is like a soul-killing mashup of The Peter Principle and the movie Office Space). Pursuing my artistic vision for real is doable, but it won’t be easy. Plus I’m still working through my personal issues and want to make sure that I am not shortchanging my kids by pursuing my pie-in-the-sky dreams. Also, I could very easily get canceled for some of the views I may express or the questions I may raise. On the other hand, I really do think that I have a unique combination of interests, experiences, insights, and talents that I can really turn to artistic gold, but doing so will require both (1) consistent investments of time and energy over a potentially long period of time and (2) luck. And that’s the crux of the matter: pursuing artistic excellence requires a significant investment of time and energy, both of which are scarce resources, and that investment may never pay off. Do I do it anyway?
I’ve wrestled with this question throughout the last half of 2022. Do I go for it? Really go for it? By playing it safe and only going for it halfway (which is what I have done in the past), I will pretty much guarantee that it will never happen. But this is a calculation that involves risk to other people, especially my kids. What if I get “canceled” and suddenly find myself out of work with little in the way of income? I could gamble on parlaying the notoriety of cancellation into building an audience, as some people have managed to do; but like the average blackjack hand in a Vegas casino, the odds are objectively not favorable, to put it mildly.
I have two things that I have gotten some favorable feedback doing but that I have had only limited success blending into a single, seamless artistic vision: stand-up comedy and writing. I guess Woody Allen combined the two pretty well. So did Mark Twain. But most comedians are poor writers, and most writers are poor comic performers. And then, to round out my résumé as a “jack of all trades, master of none,” I like composing and playing music (piano/keyboards); though I have not performed music publicly, I would like to figure out how to incorporate that into my comedy, in a similar vein as Sam Kinison and Adam Sandler. And with writing, I have some ideas to try out using different formats, some more serious than others, blending my interests in philosophy, spirituality/religion, personal development, cultural issues, etc.
To make legitimate progress on this project, I basically need to follow Steven Pressfield’s book titles to a T: wage “The War of Art,” act like I’m really “Turning Pro,” consistently “Do the Work,” and “Put [my] Ass where [my] Heart wants to Be.” Okay, so that means making a work schedule and sticking to it. I have little in the way of a concrete strategy at this point, other than that I will maintain a consistent schedule of writing, rehearsing, and performing, but especially writing. I’ll try new things, and see what works, what doesn’t work, and what could possibly work after I make some adjustments. Wash, rinse, repeat. But above all, make a schedule and stick to it!
Well, whether you make formal New Year resolutions or not, hopefully 2023 will be a year of positive changes, especially on a personal level. We are living through strange times right now. I feel like 2022 was a year when a lot of us were still trying to make sense of all the crazy shit that got dumped on us in 2020 and 2021. Among the heterodox, there seems to be a sense of peace settling in, as those on the margins of our culture understand that the status quo really is unsustainable, that we really are on the precipice of some major shifts in the cultural zeitgeist, that the conventional wisdom of previous decades will be worse than useless when it comes to navigating whatever comes next, and that the the type of heterodox thinking for which people like us are presently marginalized will become, in due time, a great asset.
So hang in there. Connect as best you can with those who share your interests and values. Trust God. The ultimate spiritual power and reality behind our Universe is good. Integrity matters. Truth and Reason matter. Human Nature matters. All the wishful thinking of the globohomo empire’s ruling class will not change any of that. Empires come and go; the values we seek are eternal. We really are in a good place.
Here’s something that gave me some reassurance recently. I was thinking about where I’m at in life, about my finances and career prospects and all that, which objectively seem to be getting worse with each passing year, and of course there’s the temptation to ruminate about “what if I had done this or not done that?” to no end. But those mistakes, if indeed they were mistakes (given who I was and what I knew at the time), provided me with valuable lessons I would not have otherwise gotten. And even if I may feel like I am worse off today by some external metric used to assess a person’s worth in our deranged culture (where a person’s “net worth” is only calculated in dollars), I have to say that I, as a person, am better today than I was last year, or the year before that, or the year before that, etc. If what I believe about God or the moral law is at all true — and I mean, I have more questions than answers, so I am probably wrong about a lot, but if I am right even a little — then being able to say that I’m a better person today than I used to be is a tremendous blessing and a sign that Life really is going well.
For those of you out there who have been struggling with depression or anxiety or feelings of inadequacy based on how poorly you seem to gel with your surrounding culture, ask yourself a similar question: are you, as a person, better today than the person you were last year? If so, hang in there. God is in whatever it is that you are doing, for you to see those returns on the investment God has made in you. You have every reason to be optimistic. 2023 will be a very good year.
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I have no idea whether “Carpe Anum!” actually means “Seize the Year!” in Latin. For all I know, it means “Seize the anus!” If you find yourself traveling in a Time Machine to ancient Rome, you should exercise caution before using this phrase.
I am not using “heterodox” or “orthodox” in their traditional religious sense, but am instead referring to the relationship between one’s own values and cultural values promulgated by mainstream institutions; in this sense, a Christian or Jew who is “orthodox” in the traditional sense will be, like G.K. Chesterton, considered a heterodox thinker in the postmodern West.