Ho’o pono pono
We have arrived at the early days of a brand-new year. In western cultures, the new year is a time to make resolutions, to make a list of things to do/change/work on in order to become a better person. Or to become slimmer. Or wealthier. Or more patient.
There is a long, long list of potential New Year’s resolutions, and cultures all over the globe have their own practices, as well as their own timing, for these celebrations.
In Judaism, the most holy and solemn time of the year is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. It occurs just after Rosh Hashana, the New Year, which generally occurs sometime from September to early October. Yom Kippur is a time to take a close and honest look at our intentions in order to discover the true source of our words and actions. The belief is that when we learn to act from a place of love and connectedness, those values grow exponentially in the world.
The Chinese new year occurs around February in the western calendar, and is a time to celebrate the gods as well as one’s ancestors. Families gather the evening prior for a reunion dinner. It is also traditional to clean house, in order to sweep away any bad fortune and to make way for incoming good luck.
In late autumn, Hindus and Sikhs observe Diwali, which celebrates the birth of a new year, the triumph of good over evil, and the triumph of light over darkness.
In Hawai’i there is the practice of Ho’o pono pono, which is not merely for the new year, but rather is intended as a daily practice. Deceptively simple and remarkably powerful, it is all about atonement and forgiveness. I find it to be a beautiful expression of repentance and grace, and ultimately, of love.
Don’t give in
Winter is the season that is used most frequently as a metaphor for old age, and for describing those who are approaching death. The end of life, the quiet retreat.
My poetry-minded French teacher showed up one day with a letter written by the French author Bernard Pivot, answering a letter he’d received from someone younger, inquiring about his life as an old man. In the letter, M. Pivot rebels against any sign that anyone pities or accommodates him due to his age; he shakes his fist at those who suggest that he deserves special treatment because he’s grey and feeble.
Here’s my attempted translation of my favorite section, with a little online help:
To fight against aging is, as far as possible, to give up nothing.
Neither work, nor travel, nor shows, nor books, nor love of good food, nor love, nor sex, nor dreams.
To dream is to remember while doing, those exquisite hours.
It is thinking of the nice meetings that await us.
It is letting one’s mind wander between desire and utopia.
And he goes on to say that he hopes to die while listening to Mozart. If you’d like to read the full letter, it is titled “Vieillir, c’est chiant,” (“Aging, it’s boring”) and it may be found online.
You go, dude!
Signage and language
I enjoy writing and words and letterforms, and I love photographing signs and other forms of writing. Here I bring you some photographs of words. If you’d like to see more examples, click here to see signage, words and letters.
Learning a language
When we study a language that is not our native tongue, we tend to learn a lot about that native tongue. We are, in effect, studying two languages at once. To some degree, we have to learn about rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation, and if we didn’t know them in our own language before we started, well, it starts to happen anyway. It’s hard to learn how to use a direct object in a new language without learning what a direct object is in the language we supposedly already know.
Living my life in a new language is a daily challenge. I am constantly learning (or stumbling over) new things. For example, there is a very basic aspect of French that I thought I had mastered many years ago, but in class the other day, I learned a new rule about it that left me puzzled. That same night, I had dinner with English-speaking friends who are much more fluent French speakers than I am. I asked about this new-to-me piece of information, and was met with blank looks, followed by certainty that my teacher was wrong. Two of us went home that night and researched the subject, and we learned that my teacher knows of what she speaks. We all learned something new that day.
Living my life in a new language also means that I simply spend a lot more of my time thinking about language and how to use it. I’ve always enjoyed language and its rhythms, and I adore writing and playing with words. Thus, spending even more time thinking about language isn’t so much of a stretch for me, even if I’m not particularly accomplished in my newest language.
All of which brings me to a tasty little morsel I read recently on one of my very favorite web sites. I had never before heard this, and I find the following story, reprinted from TwistedSifter, to be immensely satisfying.
I thought this was an interesting tidbit recently shared on reddit. It purports that native English speakers subconsciously order adjectives without even realizing they’re doing it.
However for those learning English as a second language this order is often taught and explained… I’ve typed [the text] below:
Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out. And as size comes before colour, green great dragons can’t exist.
[via truckzebra on reddit]
I am recently returned from an exotic holiday-season adventure in Singapore and Malaysia, where I visited cousins, ate a lot, laughed a lot, and walked lethargically in my constantly-damp and limp clothing. Well, it was my clothing once my luggage finally arrived. Anyway, as you can tell, there are a few stories to tell, and there are also lots of photographs to share. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile, the French have a particular word order of their own when it comes to New Year’s wishes. It goes like this:
Bonne année (Happy New Year) …
et bonne santé (good health) …
et meilleurs vœux (best wishes) !
All punctuated by bisous, the omnipresent kisses of greeting. You may not get through all three steps, but many people try.
Returning to the Ho’o pono pono prayer that I opened with, I send you my wishes for a new year abundant with peace, respect, abounding joy, and the warmth of family and friends.