Another year come and gone. Good riddance, 2018. You left us all a bit poorer, more cynical, beset by the Four Horsemen of tribal politics, social warriorism, unending victimhood and proto-fascism taking root around the world. Nice work.
But hope springs eternal, 2019 is a new year and I can safely say, a mere nine hours into it as I write this, so far, so good. The Baboon-in-Chief hasn't tweeted war on anyone other than Democrats, the PM didn't immolate himself in the torchlight parade down Whistler Mountain, TFSA contribution limits went up for anyone with an extra $500 they don't know what to do with and I haven't gotten anyone upset with me ... so far.
In an effort to keep that streak alive, I—and everyone else who writes an opinion column—will turn my attention to New Year's resolutions. Fortunately, I have a short attention span. What was I writing about?
Oh yeah, resolutions. I resolved years ago to not make New Year's resolutions. I strongly urge you to adopt that policy. The first day, heck, the first week of a new year is no time to wallow in the bottomless pit of self improvement. If history has proven anything it is this: We are all probably as good right now as we'll ever be, with the possible exception of the cotton-headed hangover many of you are suffering right now. I, of course, am perfectly clear-headed, Jan. 1 being a workday for me.
If remnants of guilt force you to torture yourself into making resolutions, I'd like to suggest you spend a moment contemplating Eastern mysticism. There is much good to learn from ancient Eastern philosophy. I would even go so far as to say I personally discovered the path of true happiness hewing to the wise words of an Eastern philosopher.
Specifically, E.C. Segar. Who? I hear you ask. Elzie Segar (1894-1938, which makes him sufficiently ancient for my purposes) lived a brief but notable life in Chicago and New York, both of which are east of here. Looking for a path to follow, he decided, at 18 years of age, to become a cartoonist, sent away for a correspondence course and created such forgettable comic strips as Barry the Boob and Looping the Loop.
Nine years before his death, he hit the jackpot and became, quite unexpectedly, a wise Eastern philosopher. His creation? Popeye the Sailor Man. His key to happiness? "I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam."
The Tao of Popeye, the shining pathway to a happy life, is revealed in that lesson and its, perhaps, even more important corollary: "You are what you are." Few of us can always live the creed of self-acceptance. Fewer still can master the graceful acceptance of those around us, even those closest to us if current divorce rates are any indication.
And that is why you shouldn't make New Year's resolutions. They fly in the face of acceptance of who and what you are. They scream from magazine covers, the pages of every single newspaper, social media, television, TED talks and those annoying ads inside transit buses, 10 Ways to a Better You!
Now, there's nothing wrong with wanting to be a better you. It is always worthwhile to want to nudge yourself a step or two towards whatever you consider better. But the pathway to better is never contained in those 10 suggestions. They'll only make you feel worse about yourself and, if you're not careful, lead you to the self-help section of your neighbourhood bookstore where volume after volume awaits your growing insecurities and will, without doubt, suck you further down the vortex of self-loathing.
The only pathway to better is Popeye's self-acceptance.
There are many reasons skiing—by which I also mean snowboarding—will slide you closer to happiness and, yes, even self-acceptance, all the while giving you an infinite outlet to pursue better.
One is the paradox of skiing. No matter how badly you ski, assuming you've gotten past the stage of simply falling down every time you try to stand up, skiing is thrilling. Whether your personal envelope ends at green runs or includes double black diamonds, skiing is thrilling. Exhilarating. Life-affirming.
And no matter how well you ski, you can always chase better on skis. There is always another challenge, another line, another trick, another powder day that'll make you feel more alive than you've ever felt. Simply put, skiing is a drug. The high you feel on your best ski days is compliments of oxytocin squirted out your posterior pituitary. It's the same stuff that makes orgasm so pleasurable. I'm not making this up.
Skiing will make you happier and won't result in children you have to take care of for the next two decades ... and beyond.
But skiing will only make you happier if you accept that it, too, is only what it is. And some of what it is can make you unhappy if you let it.
Other skiers can make you unhappy. Some—perhaps an increasing number—are boorish and so totally self-absorbed; they are unaware of those around them. They'll, for example, disembark a chairlift and clog up egress for everyone behind them, much as mall-dwellers will stop and look around at the top of an escalator. Duh. They'll run into you, jump out in front of you without looking, get to the front of a chairlift line only to stop and wait for their friends 20 people back and ski side to side on a crowded run.
If you have a chance, you can point out the error of their ways. They probably won't hear you or if they do they likely won't recognize what you're saying is a flaw in their flawless character. The effort will, in most cases, be ineffective and lead you away from happiness. Whacking them a hard one with your poles, on the other hand, won't change their behaviour either but will probably make you happier. Others will notice your whacking and congratulate you for it and that'll make you feel even better.
Mechanical difficulties associated with skiing can also make you unhappy. But it's the price you pay for riding a lift to the top instead of skinning up. Crowds in the backcountry notwithstanding, the mountains would be pretty bare if we all had to skin up. Not that it would be a bad thing. Just sayin'.
But lifts are complicated machinery operating in difficult environments. If you've tried to board the new gondola on Blackcomb you've probably noticed this relationship between complicated machinery, cold weather and enough mechanical difficulties the new gondy is now popularly referred to as the Breakdown Gondola instead of the Blackcomb Gondola.
Hitting it with your poles won't make you happier. Avoiding it until the bugs are worked out will. It is what it is as well.
Don't thank me; thank Popeye.