Touch points of evolution
Do our beliefs and traditions define us?
There is an in-depth symbiosis between culture, rites, customs, ritual, beliefs, and traditions since time immemorial.
Every nation’s roots are planted steadfastly in the above; there is no country without its own set of beliefs, customs, and traditions.
Traditions and customs give us a sense of identity – an arc of stories that illuminate our origins, our heritage, and journey, even signalling touch points of our evolution.
Some of these give us purpose, a sense of continuity, meaning, and belonging.
And some are mere rites of passage and mundane rituals that have been passed down from one generation to the next – and drilled in processes and customary functions that are encapsulated as routine habits and practices.
But, should we blindly adhere to custom and traditions simply because it is what has always been done: Ritualistic practices that no one has dared question and therefore it is now second nature to us to merely go with the flow rather than to break the habit and disrupt the pattern?
Do we even pause to ask ourselves whether some of these customs add any real value to our being?
Do we kick-off every new year with a myriad of resolutions that, after a few weeks, tend to simply scatter and elude our grasp like dust in the wind?
The Lankan syndrome
Why do Lankans spend affluently beyond our means to end a year, only to usher in a new one gallantly broke, nursing hangovers and morally bankrupt with zero impetus to make a change and manifest that change in our professional, social, and personal lives? In our relationships. In our noble and persistent life pursuits.
We are wantonly superstitious and will boil milk in a new earthen pot, letting it bubble over as a symbol of prosperity.
The prepping of traditional new year cuisine and dishes.
The exchanging of gifts.
Many of our fine folk partied to bid Au Revoir to 2021 like it’s the last day on Earth; good riddance to reality, it’s all about that bloody narrow window of escape to be juiced on narcotics, loaded on booze, spending lavishly on food, beverages, and nights out…which is fine IF we were in a better suited position where things looked somewhat favourable, prosperous, and redeemable…
Instead, we are poised in an obscure karma sutra position readily, to be abused from behind rather bestially.
Ironically, the very people who celebrated the new Gregorian calendar year with the most amount of dazzle and sizzle, noise ‘n show and tell were the very ones who had their businesses, shops, stores, and offices closed on 1 and 2 January and – even if it IS a Saturday and Sunday.
Not to state the obvious, but it doesn’t seem like the most prolific and productive way to enter the new year.
Louder the better!
Why bust money on fireworks – an abomination that results in traumatising and terrifying animals around us, perpetuating environmental contamination, and, if you think about it, starting the first minute of a new year by causing harm, injury, or invoking fear?
If we leave the nila kuru and the bambara chakkara, a good bulk of what pass off as crackers and fireworks are just missiles and explosive devices comprising potassium nitrate, sulphur, charcoal laced with aluminium, iron, steel, zinc, and magnesium to create the shimmer along with a deafening bang.
This concept of lighting fireworks and crackers being good fun is a custom that began in the Second Century BC in ancient China perfected by their alchemists. Fireworks made their way to Europe in the 13th Century and were utilised for religious celebrations and public entertainment, and thus spread worldwide.
In most countries, there are stringent regulations when using fireworks and permits need to be obtained for special events and functions if fireworks are being handled. There are strict laws of how fireworks can be used by the public and how, when and where they can be used.
Naturally, no such regulatory system exists in our island – leading to our irresponsible and unaccountable public misusing, abusing, and going overboard with the crackers and fireworks, often resulting in physical injury, inconveniences caused by disrupting the serenity and peace of one’s surroundings.
Just that it makes one wonder where our priorities lie as a nation, does it not?
But what are we celebrating exactly?
A second year of the pandemic that literally left us with no feet to stand on? Losses, infections, deaths, disrupted commerce, and a crippled economy?
Why is it that when we as a nation are suffering from every inconceivable plight and hardship – from economic instability and woes, exacerbated cost of living, massive shortages in daily necessities, and mind you, a food shortage looms on the horizon as well, hiked up prices in essentials from fuel, gas, and other goods to a new variant seemingly lurking tenaciously within the engines, cogs and wheels of society – why is it that we Lankans celebrate the dawn of a new year indefatigably only to mourn and grumble of our predicaments and difficulties right at the onset of a new year?
It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?
Bit of a farce even.
Perhaps it is that us Lankans have short attention spans and are easily side-tracked with marginally temporary relief mechanisms and excitedly distracted by the most superficial and shallow things.
Then there is the fact that we Lankans have two new year celebrations: Based on the Gregorian calendar, and the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year celebrating the sighting of the new moon when the sun moves from the house of Pisces to the house of Aries, welcoming spring.
And so, many of the same rituals and customs are repeated, with staunch resolutions judiciously paved in hearts and minds while all sense and sensibility are left in paralysis – and when you think about it, nothing really changes.
We’ve set the tone – now enjoy the tune
We are a people that have short attention spans and even shorter memories.
We’d rather frolic and fraternise with strangers and people who add no value to our existence than spend time with those that truly matter.
We’d rather maintain appearances and pretend to live exorbitantly beyond our means on that 31st of December, partying it out only to repeat the same damned loop of being mentally miserable and financially exhausted – bludgeoning ourselves how to possibly make ends meet for the rest of January.
We spend so much time trying to impress others that we forget to pay attention to our greater needs, duties, and responsibilities.
How we choose to end the year and kick-off a new one determines how we will set the tone and nuance the rest of the year is bound to be.
Well, you can’t change the past. You can’t predict the future. What you can do is be present in the moment and make each moment count as much as possible.
But since this is the beginning of the Gregorian calendar, you could take a few proactive measures and simple useful steps to navigate the rest of the year with a modicum of preparation and planning to deal with the mighty economic collapse.
Better late than never
Set periodic goals that are achievable – many of us work better with deadlines and targets. We should self-impose and set some short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals for ourselves, ascertain we track and monitor our progress, and build ourselves to fulfilling each of the targets and objectives in phases
Plan your expenses daily, not just monthly or yearly – the way things are going, it’s probably a smart move to live within and even below our means, making certain sacrifices and compromises until things look up. Cut down on things you can truly live without
Invest wisely – whether it’s financial investments, hedging and procuring assets likely to retain value, saving and finding multiple revenue sources, even your investment of time, hanging out with others, and focusing on things you are passionate about, they need to be backed with a strategy, purpose, and sound planning
Devote time to your wellbeing and self – it is going to be increasingly imperative that you try and find some balance, by looking after your health and fitness so you can tackle the hardships of the future without letting it tax you and burn you out
Build an ecosystem of value – keep finding ways and means to innovate and grow your mind, body, and soul. You need to surround yourself with people who will inspire and motivate you, have an environment that is conducive to your self-growth and be in situations that would further your learning and evolution
We have no one else to blame but ourselves for being careless, reckless, and grandiose.
When instead we should take stock of where our strengths and interests lie that can garner us some return – be it investments, people, education, work prospects, or other professional pursuits – we’ve set fire to the candle on both ends and also actualised our self-immolation.
So…do our beliefs and traditions define us?
Should our beliefs and customs define us?
Our beliefs and customs should inform and impact our lifestyles and life choices, how we treat others, how we live on this planet, and how precisely we evolve in order to survive and thrive within our ecosystem, which then lends credence to how we are finally defined.
Tough times loom ahead. It’s not too late to toughen up and gear ourselves up for the raging economic and existential tsunami ahead.