Against resolutions. Against the yearly

Against resolutions. Against the yearly

I didn't make any New Year's resolutions, because why would I? Why make resolutions? Why do it at the beginning of a year?


As ever, the wisdom of master Yoda must prevail: "Do or do not. There is no try." Intention is indispensable. We do need plans! But "I'm going to go to the bank before five" isn't a resolution in the relevant sense. A resolution is a contrived promise we make to ourselves, generally with corrective or remedial intent. Self-improvement through self-promising seems about as likely as making a million dollars writing checks to yourself. How many people are you anyway?

Wanting to want or not want to do something is a pickle we can't trick ourselves out of by harder meta-wanting. Either you somehow alter the first-order desire (all riches will flow to she who holds the secret) and, as Yoda says, do or do not, or you don't, and you do or do not do what you wish you wouldn't. Better to just note the conflict between what you want and what you want to want, and not make such a big deal about it. You can't feel bad about breaking promises you never made. 

But you're going to keep on doing it, though, aren't you? Then here's what I pointlessly suggest you pointlessly resolve to do: to develop what Keats called "negative capability," which the Wikipedian hive-mind helpfully describes as "the capacity of human beings to reject the totalizing constraints of a closed context, and to both experience phenomenon free from any epistemological bounds as well as to assert their own will and individuality upon their activity." I'm telling you, you will lose weight!

And why wait? What does the time it takes for Earth to make it 'round the sun have to do with your regimen of self-improvement? Nothing. You didn't get fat last year. You're getting fat right now, always, unless you know it and act like you care, or you're a communist who lives on kale.

Anyway, the Earth's trip around the sun holds altogether too much sway in our lives. Why not count in full moons? Why not?  Why the best books of 2011? A year is too short. You can't read all those books. New ones just keep coming out and you're not Tyler Cowen. I want to know the best books of however long the current era of literary fashion has prevailed. Four years? 27? Does this new book go on that list, or is it merely one of the ten best of this arbitrary January-to-January period, in which it is entirely possible no really good books were published? In film, the tyranny of the annual is a curse. The Academy Award nomination date ought to be randomized to ensure a smoother distribution of quality releases throughout the year. When I am feudal lord of a seastead, it will be so. 

I just got an email from Mint.com in my inbox. Subject: 2012 Money Resolutions. Deleted. 

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Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
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Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images
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How much can living in the city change you? If you were an urban fox, you could be evolving yourself to a whole new stage and becoming more like a dog, according to a fascinating new study.

Researchers compared skulls from rural foxes around London with foxes who lived inside the city and found important variations. Rural foxes showed adaptation for speed and hunting after quick, small prey, while urban fox skulls exhibited changes that made it easier for them to scavenge, looking through human refuse for food, rather than chasing it. Their snouts were shorter and stronger, making it easier to open packages and chew up leftovers. They also have smaller brains, not meant for hunting but for interacting with stationary food sources, reports Science magazine.

Interestingly, there was much similarity found between the male and female skulls of the urban foxes.

The observed changes correspond to what Charles Darwin called the "domestication syndrome," comprised of traits that go along with an animal's transition from being wild, to tamed, to domesticated.

The study was led by Kevin Parsons, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Glasgow.

"What's really fascinating here is that the foxes are doing this to themselves," Parsons told the BBC. "This is the result of foxes that have decided to live near people, showing these traits that make them look more like domesticated animals."

The researchers are not suggesting you should go out and get a fox as a house-pet just yet. But they are seeing the evolutionary process taking place that's moving the urban foxes along the path towards becoming more like dogs and cats, explained the study's co-author Dr. Andrew Kitchener from National Museums Scotland.

A fox beneath a tree in Greenwich park, south east London

A fox beneath a tree in Greenwich park, south east London on May 14, 2020.

Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP

"Some of the basic environmental aspects that may have occurred during the initial phases of domestication for our current pets, like dogs and cats, were probably similar to the conditions in which our urban foxes and other urban animals are living today," said Kitchener. "So, adapting to life around humans actually primes some animals for domestication."

The specimen came from the National Museum Scotland's collection of around 1,500 fox skulls.

You can read the study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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