Since the invention of speech, so long ago, human beings have been saying they would do something, but then never did. We have even formalized this into a ritual, as a new year begins, of pretending we will make changes in our life, with New Year’s Resolutions. I recently came across an old document with the resolutions of a number of famous people, and for public benefit, I offer them here.
My brother has a pet hippopotamus, and he struts around acting like he’s some kind of god. No one in the world should have a brother as irritating as mine, but no one could, I’m sure. He always says we’re co-rulers, but he’s just a stupid child, and I’m older than him. I keep thinking about what I can do to show I’m superior to him, and I’ve thought of it. Next year, I resolve to get a pet snake. Even a hippopotamus is afraid of snakes. Let my brother shake his little fist and run to Rome, for all I care.
In the last six months I’ve written more than forty songs for the beerhall singers, and I only get enough pfennig to buy a loaf of bread. I’m bored to the point of wishing I was deaf with writing songs where all the lyrics are “Hooray for loose women” or “Let’s drink more beer”. Next year, I resolve to get back to work on a symphony. If I can write just one symphony before I die, that would be a great achievement, I think.
Leonardo da Vinci
How many boards and canvases have I covered with pictures of women? Smiling women, half smiling women, women with baby Jesus. Nobody is paying attention, not even the Medici, and they even like that stupid Michelangelo. Next year, I resolve to stop messing around with this painting nonsense and learn something useful, like cooking. A cook can make a good living, plus it’s your job to try the dishes, so you get to eat all that great food. Maybe I could even make a name for myself as a cook.
I’ve had enough of bartending, where drunks dumber than my cat think because I serve drinks maybe I’ll serve a little something extra in the back room. Besides, bartending here is dangerous work. At least once a week some intoxicated trash wants to start a fight with the entire place. Then I have to get down behind the bar until the glass stops breaking and they stop pounding on each other. Next year, I resolve to go back to school and study for a profession with no danger, like science. Radioactivity would be a nice safe thing to study. You can’t even see it, as if nothing is there.
My brother keeps talking about “We’re going to fly, we’re going to fly” and sometimes I think I hate to break it to you, buddy. Pick up every possible object you can see and toss it in the air. What happens? It falls to earth (unless you toss a bird). Why would anyone think a human being can fly? We’re not angels. There’s no such thing as magic. But so far I haven’t had the nerve to tell my brother I’m done with this ridiculous idea. Next year, I resolve to stop this flying foolishness and learn how to build boats. That would be a useful skill. You can actually go somewhere in a boat.
I am 800 pages into my novel, and I still have so much more to write. My brother and sister tell me that the book will be too long for anyone to read it, but I have so much to say, and even this novel feels inadequate to me. Lately I’ve been wondering whether I might be able to say what I want in a shorter form, and I tried a few short stories, one about a woman who goes to Boston with her minister father, and she finds a vase from Japan. It didn’t really grab me. But I’m going to see what else I can do. Next year, I resolve to try a little poetry and see if I can make anything of that. I’m not sure how much meaning you can get into a small poem, but we’ll see.