A new year, and what are we to do? This year, of all years, the appetite for energetic re-invention is in severe abeyance, for all sorts of reasons too
obvious to mention. Do we really want to better ourselves? Really? Survival of some sort seems a ludicrously ambitious project. Good enough if we hunker
down for a few months and try not to draw attention to ourselves, and then perhaps peep over the parapet to see what the spring brings.
Yet that way madness also lies. Yesterday morning – New Year’s Day – found me looking out on a garden of twittering birds (goldfinches, long-tailed tits), a butterfly, and cherry blossom. It was perishing cold and the dead of winter, but some sort of ghoulish spring-of-the-living-dead was rearing up all around. All it wanted was a Disney soundtrack played by mechanical china dolls.
So perhaps it would be better, Hamlet-like, to tackle the tsunami of woes full on, and make some resolutions and by golly stick to them. What sort of resolutions? I am most inspired by the efforts of Mike Boyd, who last year undertook to learn a number of key life skills in as little time as possible. Here he shows some of them off – unicycling, juggling, spinning a basketball, doing a wheelie, completing a Rubik's cube, and so on.
It is witless, of course, and yet somehow appropriate to the times. There is something to be said for the fact that his array of skills better him in no way at all. This man is not going to become a pathological entrepreneur on the back of these skills. Swivel-eyed Elon Musk likes to talk about how he spent the first decade of his career sleeping on the sofa in his office. I am going to bet that Mike Boyd allowed himself more than one lie-in during his year of self-improvement. He did not make any money, he did not do an eMBA, he did not learn a language or sharpen his career prospects. He did not even master the YouTube video. He merely engaged whole-heartedly, you might say childishly, with the inanity of an irredeemable world.
So, if I could find the energy and the hope (I cannot), what skills would I add to my bare cupboard? I am conscious that I know no semaphore at all, and very little morse code (although SOS might be all I need in the year to come). I would like to be able to light a fire in a rainy forest with two pieces of damp wood, and may before long find it useful. I imagine people would be quietly impressed if I could dance the Polka, in a Totentanz sort of way. And I still haven't really worked out how to teach English. That might be a good place to start.