It’s already 2011 in Australia and very nearly in Britain, but we have a few more hours of the old year here in Houston. I’m halfway through my normal New Year’s Eve preparations. I’ve swept the old dirt out ready to welcome some new dirt. It was something my mother always did and it is one of the few housekeeping lessons I learnt from her, neither of us being very keen on keeping house.
I won’t be making any sweeping statements this year, grandiose promises to be nicer, to be tidier, to read Dostoevesky, and I blame Kay. We have a special friendship that has lasted through three continents and four countries and, as luck would have it and Houston being an oil field destination, we now both live here so can continue our discussion started twenty-five years ago. Kay firmly believes New Year Resolutions are a waste of time and only serve to depress the maker of those resolutions when, by the end of January or at the latest February, they have fallen by the wayside. Far better she attests to make firm decisions not to do certain things. Negative resolutions if you like. For example, she has promised herself she will never go on a spider-collecting expedition in the jungles of Sarawak. At her urging I have promised myself I will never willingly jump out of a plane, something she chose to do in 2010 albeit with a parachute. We will both therefore start our year free of obligations.
In the States many African Americans are ending their year by celebrating the last day of Kwanzaa, the seven days between Christmas and New Year that recognises their cultural roots. Technically it is a fabricated event, though amazingly not by Hallmark. Ron Everett, aka Maulana Karenga, an African American activist from Long Beach, California came up with it in 1966. Forty-four years old and now an established part of about 2% of the US population, Kwanzaa celebrates the first harvest or first fruits, and through that the seven basic values of African culture embodied by Nguzo Saba; umoja – unity, kujichagulia – self-determination, ujima – responsibility, ujamaa – cooperation, nia – purpose, kuumba – creativity and imani – faith. So while it is a syncretic celebration for African Americans, or as the OED defines the word, ‘aiming at a union or reconciliation of diverse beliefs…’ those seven principles are surely ones that everyone should strive to live up to throughout the year, no matter what color or creed.
I suppose technically they could be described as resolutions but I like to think of them more as a continuum of the morals and ethics our parents instilled in us, and that we in turn are instilling in our children. On reflection a rather grandiose ideal and I promised myself there wouldn’t be any in 2011 – maybe I’ll just go back to my friend Kay and discuss this further, after I’ve finished sweeping.
In the meantime though my negative resolutions this year are to not eat that last chocolate in the box, and I’m sticking to last year’s resolution as well – I will not be jumping out of an airplane.
What will your negative resolutions be?