Why I am Not Full of the New Year Spirit

Do not believe the hype: the New Year is not yet here. True, this is certainly the first month of the Year of Our Lord 2008, but that really only looks good on paper.

Like democracy and Catholicism, our Western overlords imported the Gregorian calendar into our tropical shores without so much as a by-your-leave. And much like them, some things may have been lost in translation.

At the heart of it, calendars were developed so that farmers could predict seasonal events.

The Time for Planting Rice, say, or The Time to Harvest Mangos, The Time of the Northwest Monsoon, Time to Flee from Marauding Pirates, etcetera. By comparison, January doesn’t really mean anything (except, one must allow, in Latin.)

The Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans celebrate the start of their year at the coming of Spring,

and this certainly makes sense, doesn’t it? The Earth being reborn after slumbering through the cold months. It appeals to cultures who dig the cycle of life and death meme, and also to farmers who dig the, well, earth when it’s time to start planting again.

Right now, though, our islands are still in torpor as nights are getting steadily colder. “Autumn”, such as it is in the Philippines, isn’t due for at least a few more weeks, and Summer is too far away. There isn’t much to feel energetic or hopeful about except the slim chance of getting to sleep in for a few more hours until the world becomes more agreeably tropical.

Keep the Change

Motivational speakers and their self-development seminars are the snake oil salesmen of modern Manila.

You’ve seen the type I mean in pastoral literature and in that Paul McCartney-Michael Jackson music video: selling their miracle cures to a populace hungry for some formula that will make them better, stronger, faster, more popular, more goal-oriented, and, ultimately, several thousand pesos poorer.

Landmark, Flex, John Robert Powers, Speechpower, etcetera etcetera have created an entire industry out of telling people how to live in order to achieve more. For anything from 5,000 to 30,000 of your hard-earned pesos, they will let you in on their life-changing secrets of success. The seminar fee is nothing, they argue, compared to what you can gain. It’s really just to defray expenses as they change the world one person at a time.

And here is where the problem lies: Much like penis-pumps, if their methods are as effective as they claim, then everybody would be using them. This will then only raise the bar, not make the individual more effective, or efficient or whatever. It’s like having a +10 Sword of Cleaving in a world of +10 Swords of Cleaving. Eventually, they will all just be swords. This may be a marketing strategy, though, escalating into a full-fledged self-improvement arms race that nobody will win but nobody is prepared to lose.

Also, if they want to change the world that badly, then why bother with invitations and seminar fees? Several centuries ago, the world was put to fire and sword as the followers of the Cross and the Crescent engaged in large-scale warfare with each other in spreading and defending their own True Faith. Those were bloody times, admittedly. Some might even say that those centuries were dark, positively medieval. But by God, they managed to change the world. True, the world is probably no better, but change it did. And there was no nonsense about paying thousands to hear the meaning of life: you either did or died.

That being said, the Indolent Indio presents the open-source painful secret of gods, men and motivational speakers.

Self development in a nutshell:

1 . Believe in yourself.

2. Set a goal.

3. Decide on best way to reach your goal.

3. Do it.

Mileage may vary. Always remember: the habits of highly-effective people may also be the very same habits of ineffective people.