"You're Listening to Mostly Myth"
AUDIO NARRATION (foolishly human-generated)
*disclaimer: hopefully my next reading will be less nasally congested
Dionysius the Elder, the reviled Greek tyrant of Syracuse, once allegedly said, “Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent.” His other most memorable line was “I’d like somebody to be hated as much as I am.” The man was undeniably a prick, but you have to admire his self-awareness.
I open with this quote because anyone who launches a podcast would do well to first ask, “Is this really better than silence?” One-upping silence is a high bar. Most mystics would say no one can meet it. But considering how few of us spend our free hours meditating in profound silence, I figure it’s worth a go.
Let me first open by saying that I’m a grouch. Not temperamentally. In that I’m more equatorial—sunny with passing thunderstorms. But when it comes to societal expectations around birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, I’m a curmudgeon.
There are two exceptions. The first is Halloween. I’ve never lost my juvenile enthusiasm for its ghoulish theatricality and sexed-up shapeshifting. Halloween somehow pulls off being both G-rated and G-stringed. It’s for all ages, the trick that keeps on treating. I’m suspicious of anyone who dislikes it.
I’ll get to the second exception momentarily. Those two aside, I find it hard to muster up exuberance about our social conventions around celebrations. And I reckon that, to some degree, a similar misanthrope also scowls out from a guarded corner of every human heart, even from those who’d deny it. This isn’t exactly what Marx had in mind with “false consciousness,” but you get the gist.
Think about it: is genuine enthusiasm really behind all those exclamatory squads of confetti and party hat emojis? Do any free-thinking primates past puberty even care about birthdays?
The answer, oddly enough, seems to be yes. Our curious rituals stand. They persist because they serve a social purpose, even the embarrassing ones like Valentine’s Day (and nothing quite says I Love You like adhering to a hallmarked day of romance). Social customs impel us, while our cheek is mashed against our private grindstone, to occasionally glance up and say, Dear friend, dear family, dear lover, dear stranger, in this precious place in space-time, where I could be doing any number of things, I’m thinking about you… albeit in a generic, prescribed way.
No doubt, we need our rituals. They strengthen communal bonds. They fend off isolation. And they’re sweet. Even the most trivial gestures. If you’ve ever seen The Jerk, you probably remember how thrilled Steve Martin’s character was when he saw his name printed in the phone book. Such small affirmations of one’s existence matter.
In fact, I wish I were less self-conscious over sending prosaic expressions of goodwill. I waste way more time thinking about not doing it than if I just did it. All this is a case in point.
Anyway, I digress. This is just my way of preambling the concept of the New Year’s Resolution, which lies within the Self-Improvement / Self-Reflection subcategory of Why Holidays and Observances Matter. The New Year’s Resolution is a secular exception in an otherwise religious self-betterment sector, which includes the monotheistic trinity of Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah, and Lent, not to mention Eastern Division heavyweights (which, I confess, I just looked up) like Paryushana, Diwali, and Rohatsu, aka the charmingly-named Bodhi Day.
The New Year’s Resolution unfairly gets a bad rap. We’ve all heard about the dismal success rate of these yearly commitments. The latest buzzkill stat is a 2024 Forbes health study, which found that 91% of New Year’s Resolutions fail. That may be, but don’t go blaming the tradition. We’re the ones who bail on our undertakings, we should take responsibility.
Whatever the case, nowadays few people bother with resolutions. Sure, the “amateur drunks,” as Bukowski dubbed them, will still go out yahooing on New Year’s Eve, but their next day lacks muscularity. And I mean that literally too. Go to any gym this week. It won’t be any busier.
The current zeitgeist is a shrug of the shoulders, and a righteous shrug at that, for don’t you know that the Resolution is really just an institutionalized microaggression of ableism exploited by the privileged to internalize self-hatred among the volitionally-challenged?
A shrug of the shoulders is a great way to die, but it’s no way to live. Better to burn Beckett’s admonition into the backs of your eyelids:
“Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
I mention New Year’s Resolutions because, along with Halloween, it’s the other exception to my surly lack of holiday cheer. I’m into resolutions. As societies grow increasingly secular and individualistic, and the inner-directed nature of religious holidays is progressively neutered, there’s an inevitable decline in purpose and willpower.
Consider the word zealot. You may not find the word aspirational, but I bet you’d welcome some more zeal. That’s why secular stand-ins like the New Year’s Resolution, though lacking Abrahamic oomph, become all the more important.
The New Year’s Resolution does, I should note, boast a diverse and venerable pedigree, from 2000 B.C. Akkadian farmers pledging to settle their debts, to medieval knights taking peacock vows of chivalry (who needs a Bible when you can swear on a roasted bird).
If it’s good enough for the Babylonians and the Knights of the Round Table, it's good enough for me.
When I launched Mostly Myth, I promised to soon include audio versions. Four months later, I’m finally committing myself to that pledge. Without the kick in the ass of a New Year’s Resolution and its judgmental raised eyebrow, another four months might have slipped by.
Now by “podcast” I don’t mean interview show or discussion forum. I just mean an audio version, where relevant, of the writing. Sure, there’s intro and outro music and maybe some light soundscaping depending on the content, but I’m not aiming for radio drama.
I’ll soon upload the episodes to podcasting platforms. And please do share with any non-readers who are into aural. That’s aural with an “au”. As you can see, over audio some homophone nuance may be lost, or gained depending on how adolescent your humor is.
Thanks for tuning in. I hope this audio proved better than silence. And remember, it’s never too early to start prepping your Halloween outfit or too late to start failing better at your resolutions. 🥳🎉
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