Time is a continuum, but the human capacity for pause and reflection can create a distance between events that is necessary for growth.
During this period of celebration, there should be time for contemplation or ‘cerebration’.
Celebration is not the antithesis of cerebration. Thinking, reflecting, evaluating, reprioritising – these can all feature in the time between active years.
Summer has arrived. The academic year is over. Annual results have been released by schools and businesses. Resignations have been tendered, offer have been made and others are being considered. For students, some have been pleasantly surprised at their academic results whilst others have been disappointed. For all, it is time for rest and for recreation. After a time of focus and concentration it is good to let go of routine. Good to wake up without an alarm and endless ‘snoozes’ and reminders. Good to not have to be ‘somewhere, somewhen’.
The holiday period brings significant celebrations: Christmas, the Western New Year, and the Lunar New Year, mistakenly called “Chinese New Year”, shortly thereafter. This is a time when gifts are shared, people eat their fill and goodwill predominates. It is a time for preparation around celebration.
However, for many, this time of year can be a time of loneliness, hardship and stress. Family dynamics can be fraught and expectation-laden gatherings can bring great pain and frustration. For parents estranged from their children, the days can be long and far too silently predictable.
For the religiously inclined, there will be some time spent reflecting on the religious aspect of the holiday break.
For most people globally, there will be a new year. It is common at such time for people to talk of new resolutions. They might suggest a recalibration. Setting goals around fitness, restraint from deemed vices and maybe a new sense of priorities with greater clarity around what matters.
Consideration of the significance of annual events and celebrations is an important element of this season. However, so is a deep refection into the year gone by, what happened through the year, the significant things that occurred and what they taught.
Students and adults everywhere can spend some time thinking about the year that has been. There are different approaches to such reflections. These may be characterised as: the ‘everything happens for a reason’ contemplation, and the ‘I am the maker of my destiny’ contemplation.
The “Everything happens for a reason” contemplation
There are numerous adherents to the notion that everything that occurs to a person does so for ‘a reason’. This is a debateable and dubious ‘truth’, consigning unfortunate people to a fate where circumstances outside of one’s control dictate all.
However, the sentiment underpinning the idea is important to contemplate. Without agreeing to the notion, a person should be able to sit still and ask, “What if it was true?” What outcomes would a person reach if the things that happened to them through the year told them something? A further question would arise as to whether there is a theme to the events. A commonality, other than oneself?
This contemplation may allow a person to see whether there is a similarity to the types of negative events that occur to them. This may be in the realm of relationships or other areas of life. If so, this may provide a person some insight into behavioural or other patterns that could be looked at, adjusted – around which resolutions could be made.
Alternatively, there may be no pattern to events or incidents. They may appear to be random. In this regard nothing will have been wasted for the excursion into thinking.
The ‘I am the maker of my destiny’ contemplation
A common alternative conception is for a person to contemplate on being the maker of the destiny of their choosing. The idea what we can ‘be whatever we want to be’ can seem empowering. However, taken at face value, this slogan from positive psychology is preposterous. A person cannot walk vertically up buildings unaided no matter how much they want to. This maxim consigns those who are hampered by bad luck, racism, sexism and other forms of overt or insidious discrimination to believe they are somehow responsible for their own lack of opportunity. This is a particularly abhorrent effect of the universal application of this approach to others.
Once again however, reflecting on this can be interesting when the purpose of contemplation is deep thinking and insight. A person may not actually become whatever they want to be but. They can however reflect on whether they are making decisions that move them in a desired direction or create greater freedom, personal satisfaction and empowerment.
The pause between activities
The time of rest or pause between activities is necessary for regrouping and realigning. How this is done is important as all too often the years blend without any change in behaviour or attitude. Learning is left untouched and life passes in a haze of reactions rather than responses premised on wisdom.