Tuesday, December 25, 2007


I spent my fourth consecutive Christmas alone – away from the warmer, more familiar sights and sounds of home. Christmas this time around was a bit different. Even though I had to work on Christmas day, I decided not to make an issue of the desolation and hopelessness of the situation. Unlike previous years, I did not yield to the temptation of writing a poignant letter or poem detailing my woes despite knowing only too well that I may never get used to spending Christmas this way.

A few days are all that is left of another year. Perhaps years are just numbers we use to catalogue and file away memories. Does that really make them more accessible and searchable amid their volatility in our minds archives? My Christmas gift is perhaps this rare moment, to reflect on possible answers to such mundane questions.

The number of our revolutions around the sun is undoubtedly a fitting way to keep track of time. It offers useful annual reminders of events that have shaped our lives and the life of greater humanity. But when I look back on my life and on the year that’s about to end, I am amazed at how my mind has compressed a whole years worth of memories into a few seemingly inescapable images that act as cover-pages to vague memories that are bound to them.

Some of those images are of people and things that made the past year memorable. Some of them are pixelated renditions of decisions I have made, each one within a random mix of courage, blind faith, hope, desire, helplessness, grief, ecstasy, ambition...

Yet those images and memories are impoverished in their lack of detail, their inability to recollect the name of a stranger I encountered in a tram, with home I chatted for half an hour about a book I was reading. I am unable to deconstruct the 525600 minutes that made up 2007, let alone recapture even a few that stood out because they were starkly different from the rest. The simple pleasure filled minutes that the past year was studded with, like those I would have spent reading a long, personal letter from a friend, or lying on a little tuft gazing at the stars. My mind vaguely remembers the weeks I spent lost in unbearable grief, but my eyes have forgotten the steady stream of tears that flowed beneath them and flooded my heart.

The gentle flow of time has eroded most of the memories that the past year had created. It has blunted the edges of others and tinted even the most gruesome with a mild hue of romance.

Perhaps it is fitting that memories only offer hopelessly abbreviated and overly romanticised visions of the past, because there is little to be gained by fixating ourselves on the bygones of life, or for that matter on what is yet to come. While the wisdom of the past is meant to be consulted and the promises of the future summoned to inspire us, they can be meaningful instruments only when they are infused in the present moment; for ‘now’ is the only place where the wonders of life unfold.