Fly on the Wall—New Year’s Resolutions and the Precarity of Certainty

A Past, Present, and Future You at AU

Fly on the Wall—New Year’s Resolutions and the Precarity of Certainty

Ever switch majors?  Unlike New Year’s resolutions, our academic major ought to be a fully personal choice that we will live with for the rest of our lives.  To be resolute about a lifestyle change (yawn) or a brain improvement (read a non-course related book each month?), implies an impossible certainty, however.  We are already living in the past when we imagine our future selves being the same person as we are in each cognitive moment.

Flexibility in resolutions and academia are nevertheless a great way to get where we’re going.  If you’ve ever signed up for a distance course at AU and regretted it when you realized that it wasn’t at all what you expected you know what I mean.  Happily, change at AU is but a click away.  And an added bonus is that we can withdraw from courses early on just as readily as at any ordinary institution.

Winter Camping?

The real resolute nature of our studies lies in the requirement that we be disciplined in cleaving to our coursework through thick and thin.  So, I’d suggest a doable resolution: winter camping.  Er, glamping.  Just think of all the writer’s retreats at mosquito lakes; the cure for procrastination might be to brave the elements just enough to motivate us.  Plus: glamping implies a cozy yurt and a hot tub.  And a change of scenery is a great way to get a feeling for where we are.  In a sense, AU is a more glitzy version of education because we have all the comforts of home and none of the commutes or nuisances of campus life.  Glamping sounds to me like a much better resolution than a month’s diet of what my Grandpa used to call sawdust and bird droppings (granola and raisins).

Glamping in winter suggests glamour and camping and impossibility of a real interaction with nature within our civilized lives.  Or does it?  Wouldn’t every human being dating back to ancient Siberia prefer a good hot fire and plenty of fodder?  There’s a certain spooky action at a distance implied when we imagine our primal selves camped out permanently under the stars as they wheel their way across a boreal forest sky.  Maybe we’ll even hear the hoot and wingbeats of a Great Horned Owl, embodying the owl of Minerva, the owl that functions as a teensy homunculus and a “traditional symbol of wisdom” (Oxford, online).  At the very least, a resolution with a beginning, middle, and end is better than something to last a last all the way over the horizon of our future lifetime.

Resolving to Assess Our Being in Time

So, what does being resolute even mean?  And to who and to which you, the past, present, or future? Remember, we can only know our future self by an assessment of our current reality.

Max Stirner, a contemporary of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, was not one to generalize about history around him.  Instead, in frankly nihilist fashion, Stirner stated: “Truth is dead, a letter, a word, a material that I can use up.  All truth by itself is dead, a corpse; it is alive only in the same way as my lungs are alive – namely, in the measure of my own vitality.  Truths are material, like vegetable or weed; as to whether vegetable or weed, the decision lies in me” (Stirner, online).

So: whatever we resolve about 2022 it really is about our decision to bring a more fulfilled life to our lives.  Facts are, after all, a shearing away of reality until a pleasant form emerges.  Dispensing with pleasantries itself might be an excellent resolution, but that’s where the scientific mind meets the social reality of life itself.  People are happier, overall, when they are kind.  The commentator Douglas Groothuis notes that for Stirner the key is to realize how unique and special we all are.  And, naturally, how epistemological singular our versions of reality even are.  We know what we know because we are the knowers and the deciders in our lives.  Douglas Groothuis suggests that, for Stirner, we only know what we know in terms of ourselves as an individual: “the unique one had to be ‘self-referentially confined’ – have no external reference point for its judgements – and thus have no recourse to anything beyond its arbitrary positing of value” (Groothuis, online).

Key to any resolution for 2022 is to open our minds and hearts to the New Year and, come what may, recall that we are the golden thread running through our own existence.  And hey, as Ludwig Wittgenstein put it: “You cannot prescribe to a symbol what it may be used to express.  All that a symbol can express it may express.”  So if winter camping, even glamping, seems like too tall of an order then you can always not go and say you did.  And to yourself be true, rather than attached to past 2021 version of you.

‘Owl of Minerva’.  (2021).  Oxford Reference.  Retrieved from
Stirner, M.  (2021/1844).  in Douglas Groothuis ‘All Things Are Nothing to Me’ by Jacob Blumenfeld.  Philosophy Now.  Retrieved from
Wittgenstein, L.  (2021/1921) in Leonid Bilmes “‘Time of the Magicians’  by Wolfram Eilenberger.  Philosophy Now.  Retrieved from