The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

"Happy New Year 2014" “Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman/”(image ID: 10020948).
“Happy New Year 2014”
“Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman/”(image ID: 10020948).

I was angry and had a good reason to be as well. I had just earnestly started to elaborate on my New Year Resolutions when my friend doubled up with laughter.

“What is so funny?”, I asked him.

He would not reply, he was far too busy laughing. Well I know the reason anyway. It has always been the case that my list of New Year resolutions are met with mirthful cynicism and I am supposed to be credulous as an ‘eight-year-old’ kid who believes that the moon is made up of green cheese. I find this to be very sad.

My friend had by now composed himself. He said, “Well remember your last year resolutions – getting up early in the morning, studying hard, and replying to letters immediately. You made such a big fuss about it. And finally what happened? After the initial euphoria, which reminded me of the first bloom of a false growth of a plant, you were back to ‘square one’. You make resolutions only to break them so why should I take your ideas seriously?”

His words ripped through my heart like a lash as I do well remember what I had resolved on last New Year eve and how much I had put it into practice. And I admit the results left much to be desired for never be it said that I cannot admit the truth. And yet wasn’t there hope yet?

Somerset Maugham has said, “How the Gods must have chuckled when they added ‘Hope’ to  the evils with which they filled the Pandora’s box, for they very well knew that this was the cruelest evil of them all, since it is ‘Hope’ that lures mankind to endure its misery to the end.”

A rather dark view of life and somehow I can never see an ‘eye-to-eye’ with him on that count. Instead I feel that ‘Hope’ is the key to life. What is indeed more magnificent than the sight of a Phoenix resurrecting itself from its ashes or a man progressing towards being an ideal to himself?” I said so to my friend.

He retorted, “Oh, I know it is a common past time this season of the year and fools waste their time and energy in making resolutions which they can never keep. Remember they say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

I protested against this uncalled outburst of pessimism and expounded Robert Lynd’s stand on the issue. Lynd says, “Such an attitude makes life extremely difficult for the well-meaning and it robs many of us of the very last of our share of virtue. Good resolutions are too delightful a form of morality to be allowed to disappear from a world which in which so much of morality is dismal.”

My friend opened his mouth as if he wanted to protest again but then clamped up. That meant only one thing. The contest was over – ‘game’, ‘set’, and ‘match’ to yours truly.

And so I sympathize with all those who have resolved to get up at ‘six every morning’, with students who plan to turn a new leaf and study to emerge with flying colors, with writers who plan to write even better and especially with those  who plan to start exercising and answering letters promptly for I am one of you there.

And I salute you all even though may be after a few days of initial attempt you return to your old ways and vices. I do so for even the resolution is worthy of appreciation. It is symbolic of the esteem of mankind, of man’s optimistic search for self-improvement.

Well now as the New Year approaches I appeal to you to rise to the occasion and make as many resolutions as you care. You ought to ignore all the mischief makers who try to put a seed of doubt in your mind. Again to quote, Lynd, “Perhaps there is some instinct for perfection in us which thus makes us deny our past and stride off into the future forgetful of our chains.” I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year and may your resolutions meet with success.

This article was featured in ‘The Middle’ column of a local English newspaper ‘Maharashtra Herald’ in Pune, India around early January 1997.

It is a staid piece and ‘well-intentioned’.  It just missed a crucial point that needs to be made, “resolutions made without the resolve to back them up never take one anywhere.”

Otherwise I reiterate that the tradition of making New Year resolutions is a delightful form of tradition that has very practical applications. Any dream that you chase needs to be first etched out and resolved in your mind. Without this effort, your success in achieving them will be just an occasional fluke and will not endure.


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