Dan Piraro's Bizarro appears daily in The Globe and Mail and in hundreds of newspapers around the world. His latest book is Bizarro Heroes, published by Last Gasp Comics in San Francisco.
Do you make New Year's resolutions?
Generally I don't. On occasion, I will. I don't even celebrate New Year's because it is, to me, just an arbitrary moment in time. In fact at midnight on Dec. 31, I often shout "Five, four, three, two, one, yeaaaaah! It's an arbitrary moment in time!" It doesn't signify anything. Just one more revolution around the sun. It could be any day of the year, any moment. I always get a kick out of how much emphasis people put on that one exact moment. As if the world were going to end by some magical power, be it Christian or Mayan or anything else, it would choose Dec. 31 at midnight. It is our own arbitrary numbers and timekeeping. It has nothing to do with any system of the universe.
I moved to California this year. I suppose one of my resolutions could be to be a bit more social. I have a tendency to work too much and become a hermit. It's a very dangerous habit because you'll never meet anyone, you'll never have any friends. So that's one of the things I'm going to make myself do, get out of the house more often. When you move to a new city, it is a very good time.
That is a rare resolution. Most are vice-cessation-oriented – to stop smoking, stop drinking, stop overeating.
No, I'm completely happy with my vices. I drink a glass of Scotch every night. I'll do it until the day I die – or until the Scotch kills me, I don't care. I smoke cigars every day. I'm fine with that. I choose my vices wisely. I don't feel guilty about them.
Nevertheless, don't you feel the need to reassess at the end of another year?
I kind of take inventory of myself all the time; I don't wait until the end of the year. If there's something I want to change about myself, I'm not one to wait for a superstitious or auspicious moment. I'll just get to it.
One thing I do think is kind of funny about resolutions: It's got to be the time of year that health clubs, fitness clubs make absolutely the most money when everyone is signing up. If everybody that signed up on Jan. 1 actually turned up, they couldn't cram them all in. They depend on nine of 10 dropping out by Jan. 15. Talk about overselling their seats, like an airline!
I don't think of resolutions, except in a sense how kind of frivolous and useless they are to most people. People think of it, but there are so few who follow through, in the end, it just amounts to a whole lot of nothing – a country full of teetotallers and sensible eaters for two weeks then back to the same old drunken slobs. An alien visiting here for the first two weeks in January would think what a well-behaved bunch of mammals we have here.
People tend to keep resolutions to themselves, like wishes kept secret while made blowing out birthday cake candles, for fear they won't come true if they tell.
That's a weird superstition. People like to assign power to the day and assign power to the resolution, then they desire not to tell anybody because that assigns power to the secret, trumping up a whole lot of imaginary powers.
Why do you think people make resolutions?
Human beings are incredibly superstitious. We like to give power to specific dates and times and situations. Midnight, Jan. 1 – assigning power to that date and stating that on this date, the door closed behind me on that vice or that behaviour and now I'm going to be different. It helps people giving that day the power to do it. It is a good psychological tool. It is the basic link to human superstition that keeps people making New Year's resolutions.
Human superstition? Is making resolutions and deluding ourselves that we are going to keep them what sets us apart from the lower animals?
Deluding ourselves is definitely one thing that sets us apart from other species. We are nothing if not delusional. I think of human beings as mutated apes. We mutated in a very strange way that gave us this gigantic brain and there is not enough stuff in the real world to keep it busy, so we invent all this stuff to keep ourselves busy and from getting bored. Resolutions are another of those things we have invented to control our incredibly active brain.
This year, I may make a New Year's resolution to be invisible. I'd like to see if it works. Just become invisible at will. You could do so many fun things.
Can you think of a resolution a really smart chimpanzee might make?
Maybe an intelligent chimp would make a resolution to finish The New York Times crossword puzzle.