Feeble Knees

Thursday, December 30, 2004

A New Year

New Year celebrations in Malaysia have been cancelled, this from Messy Christian and IreneQ. Instead, people are being asked to remember the dead, missing, and suffering. Now there's a concept, a very wise one indeed.

I credit the Malaysian government for this, it seems the honorable thing to do.

My husband and I generally don't get into the whole New Year thing (it's a tough holiday for those who don't drink) but this year will probably be especially subdued.

As an American, I admit we do have a tendency to want to bounce back quickly from things. We have this almost irrepressible urge to celebrate life even in the face of tragedy. Growing up this way, I assumed it was honorable, even inspiring. I never realized that this is potentially offensive to folks from other cultures. It took me a minute of thinking to realize that it could be construed as the height of insensitivity or a lack of reverence for the dead. I wish I could convey somehow that it's never our intent to dishonor the dead or diminish the suffering of those who remain.

Sure there are some noodleheads out there who just live to get liquored up for any reason at all and act like imbeciles. But that's not what I'm talking about when I talk of the American psyche's innate need for celebration, even in the darkest of times. It really isn't about carelessness or sloughing off pain. Perhaps it has more to do with a deep appreciation for the indomitableness of the human spirit.

The determination of Americans to celebrate in Times Square right after 9/11 comes to mind (although there was no small amount of pride and defiance mixed in with that). I wasn't charging down to the square myself, but I could understand the motivations of those who did. It was with a measure of pride, worry, and not a little satisfaction that I watched my crazy countrymen revel in the heart of New York City that year. It was important to our country, our culture as a whole to celebrate that moment, even if it was tearfully done.

But this year it seems more appropriate to be subdued, meditative, prayerful. It's a time to reflect on the knowledge that we are not guaranteed the promise of another breath, much less a whole new year. There is a time for everything, so the Preacher said. May this be a time for grief and reverence, tears and giving, sorrow and hope.

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