Those Magical Numbers: Year-End Musings

10

Are we coming to the end of a decade?  Or still have another year to go?  Does the new decade start with 2010, or 2011?  No matter, that debate is just academic and immaterial in light of the actual events that had taken place after we entered the new century.  From a wider perspective, it’s been a period that TIME magazine called ‘the Decade from Hell’, ‘the Reckoning’, ‘the Decade of Broken Dreams’.  Now, the new normal is recession, terrorism, climate change, pandemic.

On a personal level, a decade sounds weighty enough to send chills down the spine.  Where have all the years gone?  A decade of our life has already slipped by since the beginning of the millenium, the novelty of Y2K rubs off like the fleeting fragrance of the night-blooming flower.  Above all, how do we put into perspective a life among all the tensions on a wider scale?  Can we sculpt out a little private, inner space where peace can still thrive, and faith, hope, and love indwell despite the overwhelming odds in the outside world?

12

According to the liturgical calendar, Christmas celebration continues for 12 more days into the new year, until the Epiphany, January 6th.  With the backdrop of mostly negative global affairs, it’ll do us good to stretch the Christmas spirit a bit longer.  Let the joy and peace last for a few more days.  A reader has reminded me that Christmas Day is arbitrarily picked anyway.  True.  But since we’re given one day to ‘legitimately’ celebrate the birth of Christ, might as well make the best use of it… for I really don’t know how long such a tradition will last, or us given the ‘right’ to mention Christ publicly.  So it’s Epiphany then, 12 more days.  But… is that enough?  I mean the peace and joy, not the hustle and bustle.  Shouldn’t we extend the spirit of Christmas to all the days of the year?  Wouldn’t it be a better world if we let the Word dwell among us just a while longer, or in our wildest dream, let Truth and Grace prevail in every single day?

24

Never mind the decade, just think about the 24 hours I’m endowed with.  How should I spend my next allotment?  Not until I break down the day into 24 units can I find some pressing reality and urgency.  Years back, I used to work in a consulting firm where we had to fill in a time-sheet at the end of the day.  I had to account for my time in 15-minute units, so the firm could charge my time back to the right clients.  My boss would really frown on the category ‘general office’.  That’s what we put down when we were not actually working on a particular project, so our time is charged back to the firm.  I’m afraid it’s ‘general office’ most of the time these days… Is taking care of elderly parents ‘general office’?  umm… what about blogging?  Is it real work?  Who do I charge to?  Can I measure my time in chargeable units?

365

The most amazing site I’ve come across this year is Nina Sankovitch’s Read All Day.  On October 28, 2008 Nina embarked on the 365 Project.  She was to read one book a day and write a review on her blog for one year.  On October 28, 2009 she completed it.  What an incredible endeavour!

Nina lives in Westport, Connecticut, with a family of four reading boys to raise.  Incredible indeed.  Her first book in the Project?  The Elegance of the Hedgehog, one of my favorite books of the year.  Click Here to read her New York Times interview.

As a book lover, there’s nothing more she’d rather do than just to read all day. But Nina embarked on this project for some other reasons as well.  She read to learn, to find her place in the world, to seek directions on how to conduct her life, raise her children, relate to her fellow humanity. Also, four years after the death of her older sister at age 46,  she had now come to that age herself. She wrote on her site her purpose for reading with the most poignant words.  I would not paraphrase a single line:

“This year I am the age she was when she died: 46.  She was too young to die, she loved to read, I am fulfilling maybe even a fraction of the reading she should have had left to her. But I am not only reading to compensate, I am reading to endure.  Books — especially novels — offer a window into how other people deal with life, its sorrows and joys and monotonies and frustrations.  I can find empathy, guidance, fellowship, and experience through my reading.  I will never be relieved of my sorrow for my sister.  I am not looking for relief: I am looking for resilience.”

This is one of the most moving reasons for reading.  Nina Sankovitch now writes a book column for Huffington Post, and is still keeping her Read All Day site, down to maybe three books a week.  She is also preparing for publication a book on her 365 Project.

My next allotment of 365 is coming up very shortly.  I know I can’t take that for granted.  Who can guarantee 365, or even 24.  A book a day, what an inspiring concept… something I can never imagine myself doing.  What motivates me though isn’t her achieving that 365, but maintaining the momentum every 24.

It’s not so much about reaching that magical number, or completing a task, it’s all about finding a purpose, and the resilience to live it every single day.

***

Photo:  Footbridge to Bow Lake, Alberta.  Taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, August, 09. All Rights Reserved.

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Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

12 thoughts on “Those Magical Numbers: Year-End Musings”

  1. Good reading your thoughts. Now I’m thinking about the last 10 years…
    A book a day for 365 days…Wow!
    Good encouragement to let truth and grace prevail everyday!!
    Happy New Year to you and yours!!

    Ellen,

    Thanks so much for your visits in the past years. My best wishes to you and your family for a most blessed New Year!

    Arti

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  2. Thoughtful indeed, Arti. It’s true we just don’t know how much time we have.

    nikki,

    Thanks for your comments in this past year and all the best for a wonderful and picturesque New Year!

    Arti

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  3. Arti, I went to Sankovitch’s site and found much there to ponder – as a writer, not a reader! I was especially taken with this paragraph in the section she provides as a chronicle of her experience:

    The traits of great writing are: genuineness, truth, fearlessness. Say it out loud, no fear, let your words flap in the wind and light up the sky and bring in the readers, like a boat into a harbor. Write straight and true and without a safety net. No safety net!! All the books I’ve read and loved have taken a chance and won. They won me over with their honesty and beauty. And I know the hard, hard work that goes into making a novel or a memoir or a short story or a poem. Only hard work and unfettered talent can make such beautiful and moving works of words.

    Now, that’s encouraging. My own hunch has been that those are the key qualities for good writing – it’s always nice to see someone affirming our beliefs, eh?

    But my goodness – I left her site and her list of books thinking: who is raising her children? who is paying the bills? who is making this project financially and temporally possible? I admire what she’s done, but I think I more admire the man or woman who manages to read a book a month while raising a family, working two jobs and worrying about putting gas in the car to get to the library.

    In any event, thanks for a terrific post, and best wishes for the New Year that will be here before we know it. And it’s coming with a Blue Moon on New Year’s Eve, you know! It’s a rare token of beauty for the beginning of a new decade.

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    1. Linda,

      There’s much to explore on NS’s site. And if you click on the NYT interview, you’ll get a glimpse of her home life. She used to work as a lawyer, apparently now a stay-home mom. Her husband is also a lawyer. I don’t know about any financial backing for her Project. She’s a fast reader who reads about 6 hours a day I think, from the NYT article, so that’s just like a full time job. That means she still have time for family, just like any other working Mom. Her writing of the review will be like us, blogging after work. Don’t you think that’s just the ideal job!

      Do click on her year-end article on Huffington Post, ‘Resolve to Read More’. In it, she addresses how we can find time to read in our busy and over-networked digital world.

      Anyway, the issue here is that she has the gut to read all day, and I admire her for that. If she works as a lawyer in her office all day, even overtime, she’d only gain admiration from others. Buy to spend her time just reading seems like a frivolous and self-serving thing to do, according to society’s expectation… you know, I feel guilty about reading for too long while neglecting certain tasks like housework … etc. But from my own perspective, sometimes reading IS more important than housework!

      Last but not least, thank you for all your comments and support over the past two years and my best wishes to you for a most rewarding 2010!

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  4. Who knew that numbers could “ripple”? Not me! A most lively young lady said to me this afternoon “and you know it’s a new ten years, but I don’t want to give up 2009!” Ten years is greater than her life so far, but I know what she means. I found so much in 2009: blogging, which led to the discovery of so many interesting folks (you, for instance; I learn so much from each of your posts–regardless of their focus–and your thoughtful, eloquent writing),the joy of connection, even a job!

    Your punchline, as always, is right on the mark: “it’s all about finding a purpose, and the resilience to live it every single day.” I am glad you have found a purpose, and that I discovered one of them one day.

    Happy New Year, Arti, with my very best wishes.

    ds,

    Thank you so much for your kind words. I too have enjoyed all my blogging friends, their sites are models that I learn from. Thanks to your third-storey window, I’ve enjoyed many wonderful views. My best wishes to you too for a happy and purposeful 2010!

    Arti

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  5. I agree, you always bring insight in your posts.

    I’m overwhelmed with the cumulative effect of the oughts decade (or the naughties as Loring calls them). I can hardly bring myself to read the news, even the headlines.

    I think you know I am no novel reader, though I finished one important one this year. I am finally learning to appreciate what fiction brings us, and I do admire the writing of it, since I tried writing a short story and never did complete it. It’s hard work.

    As for numbers – especially 24 and 365 – I find them constricting and stressful. I am going in the opposite direction, erasing lines between hours and opening my door to students, for instance, who don’t have an appointment. Living in the moment. I am trying to accept all the moments as they come, while planning the best I can and being the person I am with some kind of integrity. Nina Sankovitch reading a novel a day is a marvelous avocation, and I admire her. We each find ours, hopefully with that much passion and awareness.

    I look forward to another year with you, my dear friend.

    Ruth,

    It must be liberating to ‘erase lines between hours’… and I admire you for doing that. I enjoy reading, but I’m a slow reader. I’ll never do anything close to even reading a book a week consistently for the whole year, although I’ve attempted that. The difficult part is ‘consistently’. In the new year, I’d like to allow myself ‘obligation-free’ and ‘deadline free’ readings, much like your erasing lines between hours.

    Thanks for all your past visits and thoughtful comments. All the best in the New Year and surely, more mutual visiting in the days to come!

    Arti

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  6. I found the Read All Day site near the end of the project, but once I found it, I followed with a lot of interest. Personally, I can’t imagine reading a book a day for a full year, but it’s cool that other people can do it and manage to write about everything too. Thanks for the thoughts here — there’s lots of good things to think about.

    Dorothy,

    I’d like to keep reading an enjoyment and not a chore or obligation. But of course, people read for various reasons, and I admire what NS has done. She’s still keeping about 3 books a week and reviewing them on her blog. It’s good to be able to read fast.

    Thanks for all your visits and I must say too that I’ve learned so much from your book blog. Have a wonderful New Year and may it bring to you more joy in your reading so I can continue to benefit!

    Arti

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  7. What a timely post, and I don’t mean that in a facetious way. This is a time to examine our lives at this darkest time of the year (in the northern hemisphere) when many of us are tucked in, trying to stay warm, planning our projects for the coming year.

    Thanks for the link to Nina’s writing. I used to read a lot of books, maybe a book a day, until I thought I ought to be making a better “use’ of my time, but now that I look at my life I see that all of those books read were a very good use of my time. I was reading for the very same reasons that Nina and others here do. To get outside of myself, to see the world in new ways, to learn, to become resilient, and yes, for some laughs.

    This coming year I’ve resolved to write a book I’ve been thinking of for years, so hopefully next year at this time I can report some progress, and some more books read, too!

    I love what you wrote about “general office” time. Happy New Year!

    Cathy,

    I struggle to read amidst daily responsibilities and duties. You can say reading is a ‘guilty pleasure’ for me even. But from my own perspective, reading is most ‘useful’, and it has a high priority in my ‘general office’ category!

    All the best wishes to you on your writing project… I can’t wait to read your ‘progress report’. Have a wonderful 2010!

    Arti

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  8. A wonderfully thoughtful post. May your next allotment of 365 be full and satisfying, happy and healthy!

    You have a most wonderful New Year too Stefanie… and may 2010 be a rewarding book year for you!

    Arti

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  9. I have spent a lot of time reading in recent weeks. My health (a long term problem) took a turn for the worse and I decided to read – all day – for several days. I read “The Bishop’s Man”, art books, Jane Urquhart, even “The Lost Symbol”. It was a wonderful way to smooth some uncomfortable hours. I love to read – something I was not taking the time to do much of the past year.

    Christmas is not entirely arbitrary. Just as Easter is the first full Moon after the Spring Equinox (Good Friday is generally 4 days after the beginning of Passover, I believe), Christmas is just after the the Winter Solstice – the longest night of the year which marks the return or rebirth of the “Sun/Son” after which the days get longer again.

    I empathize with your feelings on the decade. As time passes, some things become more important and others, less so. Figuring out how I am going to spend the next 365 days (generally speaking!) is something I have been doing a lot of lately, in light of how changeable life can be. I worked very hard this year and achieved every one of my goals, but, now, I look at a possible change in priority. But I ramble on… 🙂

    I am fairly new to this wonderful blog and I have not been around near as much as I would like. I plan to change that! Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year!

    Michelle,

    A look at your site will show that your past 365 have been fruitful indeed… all the great paintings, photography, and the discovery of communities! And yes, reading, painting, photography, discoveries… the joy of life. I wish you more of these blessings in the coming 365, and look forward to more mutual visiting in the New Year. Happy 2010!

    Arti

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  10. Dearest Arti,

    I’m not in the least surprised that we both used bridges in our final post from the aptly titled Decade from Hell.

    There is much to ponder here. Interestingly, I am currently reading Julie and Julia, another spirited woman who did the impossible in 365 days! I am intrigued to know more of Nina Sankovitch and I thank you for the introduction. I will attempt to get back with more in due time.

    My intent, at this moment, was to stop by and wish you the loveliest of days in the coming year. You have been the most steadfast of supporters, oftentimes, being a truer advocate than one’s own friends. Perhaps the Decade of Broken Dreams had something to do with this unfathomable epidemic.

    I am heartened by your site, your sensibilities and the truth of all you tell.

    Happy 2010. It is, I daresay, a nicely arranged numeric visage from an aesthetic point of view.

    Errant Aesthete,

    Thank you for stopping by and leaving such kind words and well wishes. The same to you for a most rewarding 2010! As for the bridge… isn’t it just a most apt symbol of transition? It’s interesting to see how our bridges contrast with each other. I’m glad to know too that we do share some unspoken sentiments and perspectives.

    As well, I had Julie and Julia in mind when I wrote this post. That’s another amazing 365 Project. We can personalized our own 365 Project, whatever that’s meaningful to us. It’s a lesson in perseverance I think, even if it’s something we love to do.

    Arti

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  11. Lovely post and great links. I wish I were more of a commenter, but I sometimes just like to read and silently pass on. I’m rectifying that now.

    Happy New year, btw, and here’s to many more such posts to come!

    damyantig,

    Thank you for your visits, even silent ones. And the same to you for a year of good writing and blogging!

    Arti

    Like

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