“If you knew time as well as I do, you wouldn’t be talking about wasting it.” –The Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
KAMPALA, UGANDA – We need a new holiday and, to get things rolling, I’m taking today off.
I might simply be jet-lagged. Having arrived here just yesterday to start my new life as a Canadian in Uganda, I do feel a little spent.
But it also seems to me that September’s other holiday, Labour Day, has some serious problems. For one, early September is too nice a time to wind down summer. Secondly, isn’t celebrating labour a little like celebrating root canals?
Meanwhile, today, the first Monday after Earth has reached fall equinox, goes totally unnoticed as summer’s official end.
Nobody stops to say, as my two-year-old likes to, “bye-bye sun.”
Of course in Africa, summer never travels far away. Sept. 26 could be Dec. 26 or any other lazy, hazy day. Nonetheless, let’s all think hard about this. Because a new September holiday, with just the right name, could have some major global appeal.
Sum Day is one option. Unlike Sunday, which is for shopping and football, or someday, which I’ll get to soon, Sum Day is to take stock, or a “sum,” of our work lives. How are our bodies, minds and spirits dealing with it all?
This name might appease some labour types. But it’s too much like a foreign money exchanger, flipping and counting his bills, flipping and counting, never quite sure if he’s accurate or if he has enough.
Bum Day is better. And it’s closer to our real dilemma, that annoying relationship between time and money. You’ve likely noticed you want both, but the more you have of one, the less you have of the other. Why? Bum Day is to figure that out.
I personally practice unofficial Bum Days as often as possible. Back in Hamilton, Jean and I recently celebrated the birth of Jonathan Thomas, plus Elizabeth’s second birthday, plus my 40th, plus our wedding anniversary. They’re fine days to ponder. And I need to ponder, because my job is to simply follow my wife around, then write from wherever I wake up.
In my travels I’ve noticed that unlike Westerners, who, sadly, never have much time, folks in the developing world tend to practice Bum Days quite well. In parts of Africa, where the sunsets are stunning, some folks even develop a relationship with their wooden stools. In Ghana, for example, stools are carried around. Nobody dares sit on another’s stool.
The unfortunate thing about Bum Day is that dwelling on even the good things in life is like driving around a cul-desac.
It’s a pleasant view of the neighbourhood, but you still finish back where you started: with yourself. Plus, take too many Bum Days and nothing gets done. That’s a big issue in the developing world. Yes, the completion of my family’s little house in Uganda’s countryside has been well behind schedule.
In Yemen, where we lived until recently, this is typically called “in sha a’llah” or “if God wills.” Sure things will get finished. Someday. Don’t like that timing? Blame the Big Guy.
Sum Day and Bum Day, then, may not be the most encouraging holiday names. Which leaves Hum Day. Because, while I doubt the Almighty appreciates being blamed for any culture’s mishandling of time, He still has a way of whispering into our daily affairs.
I was reminded of this recently by a Spectator senior editor, a cancer survivor who told me of a new awareness – a certain “hum” — as he calls it – that he and a colleague, another cancer survivor, now live with. It’s the simple knowledge that despite our best-laid plans, for anyone, anywhere, eternity can be as close as tomorrow.
“I’m living in a kind of limbo,” he said. “I don’t know exactly where to go, but I know I don’t want to go back to where I was before.”
Sounds like a mysterious place, one not found everyday. But it seems to me that this so-called “hum” is short for humility. And that’s a good place to find meaning in our holidays. Not to mention our work. Whatever the season.