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New Year: A time for reflections and renewal

New Year: A time for reflections and renewal

We cannot have it all, nor can we do it all. We need to be selective about our goals and aspirations; and understand the limits of material wellbeing. Animals and the natural environment may be silent but deserve our reverence and compassion. They are our family too.

Our children are growing up in a very risky and warming world, with climate beyond our control or even prediction. There should be real fear and worry. Hiding in the self or our own private home or secure compound is not enough. We actively need to make ourselves uncomfortable.
What should we do? It is clear to me that the only thing in life that is sustainable is culture and character. Everything else will come and go. Learn about your culture. Don’t ignore or take your history for granted. Read about the challenges and opportunities of modernity. Experience music, art and festivals which nourish culture and give it spirit and momentum.

Set high expectations for your mental health and wellbeing and be prepared to make the effort for inner peace. Egoism and individualism will not help. Ancestors are the embodiment of tradition that has shaped us, and they often survived by keeping culture and values alive. Their death led to the continuity of wisdom. Give it voice and nutrition.

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We also need to accept that culture can never be a formula, a recipe or a contractual purchase. Quantity is NOT quality. Resist the constant desire to measure and evaluate. Culture is multi-dimensional and requires patience and respect if it’s to be understood.

Children will ask penetrating questions – we can use them to find answers we never knew. If we dismiss them, we may end up enhancing our hypocrisy. Learning culture requires its appreciation and respect too. Creativity helps fire our imagination.

And yes, we will never be perfect. But we can be simple. We can be respectful and learn to listen and observe. We can do less and achieve less. Patience is a quality modernity destroys to its own peril. Charity can be an act of receiving fulfilment too.

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Above all, we are only passers-by on this planet. Let’s use our journey to revive wisdom and nourish life. We may leave something behind when we go.

Professor Atul K. Shah [@atulkshah] teaches and writes about Indian wisdom on business, culture and community at various UK universities and is a renowned international author, speaker and broadcaster.

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