(Warning: I use one swear word)
It’s one week and a bit into the new year. How are your resolutions going?
You know the ones I mean.
Lose weight. Eat better. Patch up fractious relationships. Some kind of self-improvement regimen gyms, health food stores, and therapists really like to see.
Be more environmentally conscious. That sort of thing.
A decision to change a behaviour or take up a new way of being-in-the-world.
And then the plastic Carrot to the south starts a war, and we all feel, “What is the fucking point?”
But enough about that. Let us resolve not to talk about the plastic Carrot.
For now. Politics will most assuredly come up in the near future.
And you see how I used the word, “resolve” in that sense of making a decision that leads to action.
The mindset of “This is what I am going to do.” The mind committing itself to an action.
There are so many variations of the understanding and meaning of this word:
Resolution: a formal opinion of a legislative body about a certain issue;
Resolution: the disintegration, physical or chemical, of an object or a substance into its component parts;
Resolution: the quality of an image, projected, screened, or printed – the higher the resolution, the smaller the component parts of the image, resulting in a sharper focus of the object seen or detected.
Resolution: the quality of a determined state of mind;
Resolution: solving a problem, a question, a doubt.
Resolution: the intention of an individual to undertake certain actions in order to lead a more virtuous life, commonly done on or before New Year’s Day;
That last one is the meaning I started out with.
Apparently, the ancient Babylonians made resolutions in their new year to return borrowed objects and pay off debt. (Is anyone thinking of anyone else at this point? You got their phone number?)
The definition of resolution being the separating of an object or a substance into its constituent parts reminds me of something I did when I was a wee lad.
I was fascinated by alarm clocks. You remember the kind that had two bells on top and a clapper in between, and the two keys in the back that wound up the two springs inside, one for the clockworks and the other for the alarm. The small knurled knobs to set the time. The small lever to adjust the time’s accuracy. The screws that held everything together.
Of course at my age then I knew nothing about what all that stuff was for. I just knew there was something inside I wanted to see. I figured how to unscrew the knobs. I figured out that I could use a table knife to untwist the screws. And when I opened the back, what a wonder to behold! All the different metal circles with teeth connected to each other in a metal frame of levers and pins. I saw the two springs. I saw things move, as if on their own. It was like a compact Meccano® set on steroids.
And then more screws to unscrew. And I did just that until there, on the kitchen table, spread out in the chaos of resolution, was the eviscerated alarm clock.
That resolution of separating the parts, however, needed a resolution, a solution to a certain problem.
I did not know how to put the thing back together. So there the parts lay until parents found out and yelled at me. No resolution there to be found. Childhood – good times, good times.
There is another resolution I am thinking of, being a musician.
Resolution: Musically speaking, it’s what a cadence does. It’s what a piece of music does usually at the end, and often various times in the middle, that brings a sense of finality, of coming home.
You can do this yourself, musical or not.
Sing “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”, but stop when you get to the words “What you.”
Just stop there. Don’t continue. Don’t sing the word “are”.
I said stop there. Thank you.
Ask yourself, “Am I finished?”
Sing it again, stopping at the same place, as if the piece actually ended there on the words “what you”. Take note of how you feel. Repeat.
It doesn’t feel quite done, does it? Sit there for a moment with that unresolved feeling, because what you are feeling is essentially the history of Western music. It is a constant journey from the unresolved to the…
Now sing the song again and complete it with the word “are” and its corresponding note.
There. That felt better, didn’t it?
You have arrived at a resolution. It’s called a cadence. Specifically a “Sol” – “Do” cadence. Or a 5 – 1. Or a V – I. Or a Perfect Cadence. It is the Great Attractor of Western musical language.
Listen to the final minute (starts at 11:02) of the last movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. It is a whole series of Five – Ones. Sol – Do – Sol – Do – Sol – Do and so on. (You can listen to the whole movement – it’s a thrilling piece of music.)
But he ends on Do. On the one. Mr. Beethoven has arrived home.
I might even venture to say that our feeling of wanting to come home in music reflects a desire for our New Year’s resolutions to bring us to a place where we feel more at home in ourselves and in the world.
And that might be the best New Year’s resolution of all.