On Good Resolutions by Robert Lynd
In the essay On Good Resolutions by Robert Lynd we have the theme of respect, virtue, morality, maturity and habit. Taken from his The Book of This and That the reader realizes from the beginning of the essay that Lynd may be exploring the theme of respect. Lynd believes that those who make good resolutions should be respected. They take on a burden that most people do not. Lynd also considers good resolutions to be a virtue and one that should not only be respected but admired too by others. If anything Lynd is suggesting that resolutions equate to morality, a good resolution is similar to good moral values. Something that the world lacks in the eyes of Lynd. Too many of the world’s resolutions are mediocre and as such Lynd emphasizes the importance of good resolutions. A good resolution does not need to be Herculean or need to be superhuman. Simple resolutions like getting up at seven in the morning are sufficient. As long as one manages to achieve this task at least once.
The advantage of getting up early is that a person may feel different about not only themselves but of the world too. He uses the example of the prodigal son to suggest that though the father killed his best cow for his son. He did not do so every day, for every meal. That would have defeated the purpose and been impractical as the father would not have had any cows left. Once sometimes is enough. Resolutions also take a person back to their childhood. The example of the winning try suggests that the child is somewhat daydreaming rather than setting realistic goals. Not all children play football. If anything people sometimes set themselves unrealistic goals. It is only as a person grows older that their resolutions become earthier or simpler. Hence the benefit and the realistic goal of getting up at seven in the morning. This is something that everybody can achieve.
Lynd also suggests that the intoxicating feeling that one gets when achieving their resolution, does not last forever. This is why Lynd says that one should achieve their resolution at least once. Again this might help explain why it would be ridiculous for the father to kill a cow every day for his son. However there are exceptions as with exercise. A person cannot be said to have achieved their goal until their resolution, to get healthy, is performed a thousand times. If one wishes to learn, for example, German, then it would be pointless to devote just one day to this resolution. It is something that would need constant fulfilling in order for it to be deemed successful. Lynd takes the example of exercise (with dumb-bells) to highlight that some people who make good resolutions expect miracles. Measuring their biceps each morning for any sign of growth. Another example of people looking for a miracle comes from the man who wanted to strengthen his will. He ate almonds and raisins every night and would quote lines from Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. This man was deluding himself and would have been better to quote Poe without the aid of the almonds and raisins. He was looking for a miracle to happen.
The end of the essay is interesting as Lynd appears to be using the example of habit to which each man is chained. The first step of a good resolution is easy. It is the declaration that one is going to perform such a task. However the following steps one takes are spoiled by habit. It is only when we take the steps after declaring our intent that our feet start to drag. We fall into old defeatist behaviours and do not take our resolutions seriously. Just as others might not, we provide them with ammunition to ridicule our intent for good resolutions. The best that a person can do, as they do every New Year, is to repeat or avow new resolutions, and to perform them that little bit better but to bear in mind we will always have our detractors and unrealistic goals will still be set by some. Particularly by those people who attempt the Himalayan when the ordinary will suffice