New Year’s Day

I have only one resolution of any import, and I’ll get to that in a moment. In the meantime, I was very unsocial last night, turning down a couple of very kind invitations and issuing none of my own. This is what I did while waiting for the New Year:

One of my Lichtenbergian goals last year, and the only one repeated for this year, is to start painting again. I say again as if my cessation were a recent event, but it has been years since I used any of my art supplies. And the last time I did “art,” rather than costume or set designs, has to be nearly 30 years ago.

So I dragged out all my stuff and got to work. I have in mind for the coming year a couple of series, and I’m thinking about just painting a plain coffee mug over and over until I have control of the media again. For last night, I decided just to play with color and brush and surface, just to get back in my fingers how the stuff works. (My medium at the moment is gouache, a kind of thick tempera, also known as designer’s colors.) I also had another agenda, but that remains secret for the moment.

It’s interesting to me how much some of the stuff looks like what I was producing in high school. This is not a good thing, of course, but maybe I can catch up with the rest of my life as I go along. It was fun to do, and I have enough art supplies to last for a lot of exploration (vide infra).

It has not escaped my notice, either, how mutually incompatible my composing and my painting are, not only in time, but also in space. Both require me to cover a sizable surface, and in my case it’s the same surface: my drafting table. Oh well, let one be a distraction for the other, I say.

I normally do not bother with New Year’s resolutions. They have always implied that you spent at least part of the past year in some kind of existentialist bad faith, from which you awaken somewhere around Christmas and, in a fit of newfound self-awareness, make decisions about how you are going to change. More bad faith, as far as I’m concerned.

Still, a couple of days ago I decided to try an experiment, which we will call a resolution. I think I was getting dressed, and I began to pay attention to my shirts. Over the holidays, I’ve worn essentially t-shirts and henleys or sweaters, so all of my shirts are clean and hanging up. There’s an enormous number of them. I have, and I’m going to allow myself enough bad faith not to go count them, over 30. I can take a dozen shirts to the cleaners and not break a sweat about having something to wear to work for a week or even two, any season of the year.

Likewise, I have enough Christmas ties to start at Thanksgiving and wear one a day until school is out without repeating myself. And that’s just a subset of my total tie collection.

Books? Just the unread ones by my bed would probably carry me through the rest of the year. Working my way around the house, I could catalog for you the surplus materiel available to me in any area of my life.

So that’s when I decided to try an experiment: how long can I go without buying anything?

I don’t need anything, as evidenced by the very short tour of possessions above. By any standard on this planet, I am comfortable beyond the imagination of most of the six billion people who live here. I certainly have spent a great deal on the labyrinth, all of it on my credit card, and I need to exercise restraint in order to pay that off in a timely manner. And I think it will probably be salutary to force myself to confront every desire that would normally have me reaching for the 1-Click button at Amazon.

Clearly, I am talking about discretionary spending here. Yes, I will continue to buy groceries and pay my bills (which I ought to be doing right now instead of philosophizing here). I will maintain the car and the house, etc., etc., etc. But books, music, software, art supplies, clothing, all those fun things that encrust my life, and quite honestly I enjoy, I won’t be buying any.

My goal is to see if I can make it to June. Stay tuned.

9 thoughts on “New Year’s Day

  1. So you’ve decided to stop being a consumer and focus on being a citizen. Not a bad New Year’s Resolution.

    I am not big on New Year’s Resolutions either, but this year I have made one – to become greedy! I want my share of the pie before the big boys gobble it all up. Now where or how I will get it is another question.

  2. An admirable goal, if somewhat at odds with the whole “stimulate the economy” thing. I’ve been playing with a somewhat lamer, less disciplined approach to that myself of late by denying myself purchases in certain categories until I consumed my backlog (books and movies, for example). I shall consider taking up the gauntlet you have unwittingly tossed down.

    I may, in fact, up the ante by culling from the overflow for the benefit of others.
    After these messages, we’ll be right back.

  3. I’m doing the culling thing as well. I use to set my books free. I usually put them on the wall across the street from my house, but I think I need to go ask the coffee shop if I can start using their place as a drop off.

  4. From a certain angle, isn’t “stimulate the economy” a contradiction? I realize “stimulate growth” was what was intended, but it’s interesting how the assembled letters “economy” are presenting us with a shifting signifier that’s currently referring to multitudes of issues.

    To what extent does reliance on this overworked word prevent us from articulating more precisely what is going wrong? Hm.

  5. I, too, cycle through the longing for asceticism on a pretty regular basis. It’s happened enough times now, thankfully, so I can laugh at myself as the butt of the joke. Good luck.

  6. I thought of that word, asceticism, too, and rejected it. I’m not going ascetic in the least. I will be as much a sybarite as ever, revelling in my books and cds and tubes of gouache and art paper. I just won’t be buying anything new for a while.

  7. Does “getting one’s life together” count as a new year’s resolution? And by already starting, Dale, you make the rest of us look bad.

  8. New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. ~Mark Twain

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