• Resolutions

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    26 December 2014

    As the year draws to a close I have started thinking about my New Year’s resolutions. I guess we’ve all done it – embraced a heap of them only to see them clatter from our grasp sometime before January is out. This cycle of unrequited ambition follows, of course, in an old and venerable tradition. The Babylonians made promises to the Gods at the start of each year – that they would return that which they had borrowed and satisfy their debts. The Romans pledged their promises to the God Janus (after whom January is named) and medieval knights took the “Peacock Vow” shortly after Christmas to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry. Watchnight services instigated by John Wesley continue to provide a Christian backdrop to reflection on the year and an opportunity to commit to resolutions for the months ahead. There can not surely be a single worthy endeavour known to man that someone somewhere sometime has not signed up to on the cusp of New Year’s Day. The fact that so many fail to meet these commitments is a refection not just on misplaced optimism or the eternal allure of lofty ideals but perhaps on the diminished personal discipline of modern times. Sadly (or perhaps thankfully) we don't all have the single-minded resolve of Simeon of Stylites, a 5th century Christian saint whose resolution stretched to a breath-taking display of the kind of ecclesiastical gymnastics so popular of that age - he lived permanently on a small platform atop a column near Aleppo for no less than 37 years. For about the time that Simeon was perched on his pole I have made resolutions at New Year. Most involved a commitment to exercise, improved diet, weight loss and being more conscientious or caring in one regard or another. Most, mes amis, were broken in pretty short order. Including the re-reading of one of my favourite novels before the year is out. A resolution I broke a couple of years ago. Before becoming an MP and immersing myself in vast quantities of news and policy I used to devour novels. Especially American authors. But life has got in the way so that reading anything unrelated to work has become a challenge. One of my favourite authors is F Scott FitzGerald and so perhaps this year I will re-read The Great Gatsby, the closing paragraph of which rather beautifully frames the inevitability of unfulfilled resolution – the endless pursuit of that which is forever beyond our reach.
    “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms out farther. . . And one fine morning ---  So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
    Wishing you and your family a very happy and successful 2015.