Sunday, April 21

Thinking aloud New Year thoughts

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Sparks from the fireworks can be seen in the sky over Kek Lok Si Temple in George Town, Penang during an event held ahead of Chinese New Year. Traditionally, this most important Chinese festival in the lunar calendar arrives to a booming chorus of fireworks, and this year should be no different. — Bernama photo

THE Lunar New Year is at the doorstep. If you stand on tiptoes, you might catch a glimpse of it tapping on the door with alacrity before making a grand entrance – in less than 24 hours.

Traditionally, this most important Chinese festival in the lunar calendar arrives to a booming chorus of fireworks, and this year should be no different. At the stroke of midnight on Tuesday (Feb 5, 2019), the thunderous cracklings of firecrackers will a herald its arrival. And once arrived, the New Year is named after one of the 12 animals, forming the Chinese zodiac.

This year is the ‘Year of the Pig’, the last of the 12 ‘Shengxiao’or zodiac animals. An old year will have passed and a new one is ushered in when the ‘Dog’, the 11th zodiac animal, relinquishes its 12-month zodiacal reign to its porcine successor at zero hours on Tuesday.

It seems like only yesterday that we stayed up till midnight to welcome the year 2018,which has now passed into the ‘reverse-less’ realm of time. But unlike the Gregorian calendar year, which can never return, the future of the ‘Pig Year’, like the rest of its zodiac counterparts, is assured as each will re-appear in a ‘what-goes-around-comes-around’ 12-yearly cycle.

People born in the ‘Year of the Pig’ generally have a strong sense of justice and are sincere, honest, compassionate, optimistic and trusting.

For the man, sincerity, lasting friendship, honesty and humility are the strong traits while for the woman, they include a strong sense of family, a deep love for children, being a stickler for cleanliness and an ironclad resolve to stand by her man.

Although not a welcoming thought but true nonetheless, we grey – and bald – a little bit more with each passing year.

Father Time never relents — it just keeps ticking away, never stopping for a breather or a bite.

Indeed, ageing is an irreversible one-way process. Modern science can slow it down but for all their brilliance, the top scientific brains have yet to figure out how to prolong life indefinitely.

The ‘Fountain of Youth’ remains an elusive dream.

The love of longevity is universal and no more amply displayed than during the Lunar New Year on strips of red paper, bearing Chinese ideographs, representing peace, prosperity, epigrams, maxims, homilies and above all, long life.

There are people who say they don’t care if they are dead until they are 90. And, as renowned psychiatrist Dr Murray Banks pointed out, that’s exactly how they feel until they are 89!

Invariably, the most desirable thing in life is to go living – forever, if possible!

Of course, life’s satchel, like Pandora’s Box, contains other desires as well; for instance, the love of money– the more the merrier – which concordantly ranks second only to the love of longevity.

What is wealth without health? The coveted duality is being immortal and loaded – but that would be a stretch too far.

The reason people crave for that printed piece of paper called money is that it gets them what they want – security, power, prestige and opportunities, among many others. A deep sense of self-assuredness springs from the ability to get all these things and money is a key – if not the key – to it all.

Why do workers hope to get a bonus at the end of the year? Certainly not for the heck of it, but because they need the money to make a whole lot of ends meet. We like to believe that money, by itself, is harmless and that it’s the greed for money that is the root of all evils.

But honestly, without the one, will there be the other?

Longevity and money aside, the one thing that makes most of us feel whole is family without whom, we are less than complete. Our family is our staunchest pillar of support – and rightly so.

While different parents have different – and sometimes funny – ways of showing it, most dads and mums love their broods deep down and will stand by them in good and bad times. Indeed, what man is there of you if his son asks for bread will he give him a stone? (Matthew 7:9).

For the unconditional love and support our parents have given us, we should repay them by being always there for them in their twilight years.

For could it not also be asked what manner of son is he that when his father asks for shelter, he shows him the door?

Apart from the merriment, the New Year is also a time to count our blessings. How much have we given of ourselves to our family, relatives, friends and people in need — and how much have we been blessed in return.

In this context, Luke 6.38 aptly sums it all up: ‘Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure pressed down and shaken together and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again’.

With few exceptions, a broken family is fertile breeding ground for social ills. The backgrounds of most criminals follow a trail that leads to broken homes, physical abuse and a total lack of family love and care.

The importance of a close-knit family cannot be over-emphasised. It’s the backbone of one’s life from cradle to grave.

How about making New Year resolutions, especially with the sense and anticipation of renewal and rebirth floating around? Last year’s resolutions may not have made it past February, March or April but this year will be different. Or will it?

Probably we aren’t sure how to make a reasonable resolution – which is why most of us fail to keep the ones we made. We set high goals for ourselves and then wonder why we never attain them. So we either stop setting goals, or go on to make resolutions that are ridiculously easy to keep.

Needless to say, we all are good at breaking New Year resolutions. Lose weight, exercise, and study harder – they all failed not because we weren’t resolute enough to keep them; we actually meant it, but then did nothing about it.

The resolutions stood firm for a few weeks and memories of them returned throughout the year, making us feel guilty and ineffectual.

But we never did anything about it because we didn’t have a plan. So all we had were meaningless expressions such as saving money, be happy, shape up – and we usually ended up fulfilling none.

By the way, what are your New Year resolutions? For starters, a good one would be to figure out a way to keep them. At least, it’s a positive change to past inactions and broken promises.

And finally, a word of advice for those born in the ‘Year of the Pig’. Don’t engage in petty quarrels, be patient and take time in finding solutions and avoid unnecessary altercations.

An angpow for this New Year is that your hard-working nature will potentially attract the attention and support from high places.

Cheers and Gong Xi Fa Cai!