Those Magical Numbers: Year-End Musings


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?


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?


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?


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.