At this time of year many people are setting out to improve and to change themselves. We don’t often think about why this is. We often hear things about new beginnings and fresh starts but why is it a fresh start?
Is it not the case that the New Year marks a death of sorts or at least brings about an awareness of death. We move a year closer to our eventual demise. For the first time all year it becomes clear to us that we have taken another step. If that is the case it is also the case that this propels us forward and forces our hand in many way to think about our potential and what we want from it. We are driven by the fear and joy of the New Year to step up our game.
If we think about the work of Martin Heidegger whose thought which continually turned back to the question of the resoluteness of human beings as Dasein we can see a similar phenomenon occurring. For Heidegger resoluteness is a will of sorts. However, it is not a will in the sense of an individual choice. The will is rooted in Being (with a capital B) and the disclosure of that Being that occurs through Daseins’ understanding. It is then not a choice as such but rather akin to destiny. To be resolute means to be aware of ones own death and ones own potentiality. It is to act authentically, to move away from the they-self.
We must question however how resolute we are when making out resolutions. It would appear not very resolute. Every new year brings with it promises and claims that have undoubtably been heard before. This means that the previous attempts have been abandoned. Only returned to at the dawn of a new year, when death is most apparent. As the year goes on then we fall into inauthentic being.
The goals set out in the first week of January soon fade. But we are no doubt aware of this. I’m sure everyone has heard someone state their New Year’s resolution only to follow it up with a comment such as “It probably won’t last, but nice to try” or “I know I say this every year but this time I’m going to do it”. In this there is already a resignation which can only come from one place.
The reason we are able to brush off our resolutions with such ease is because they are made every year. The connection to potentiality and awareness of death is eroded by the fact the same promise can simply be made next year and the year after and the next four years after that. If we could really be aware of death that is signalled or symbolised by the New Year arriving it is questionable whether we would so flippantly make these promises. Until these resolutions are made and maintained they will always be inauthentic obligation rather than something fuelled by our Being-towards-death.