Schlof schee!

In need for sleep

As I started writing this, I had to concentrate to correctly remember the year (wait, 2020 or 2021?) and the month (yes, December already).  December 2021.  My how time flies! If you are like me, navigating the ‘new normal’ this year has taken more time than I really care for, so what I want under my tree and in my stocking (and anywhere else gifts might hide) is a blanket, a pillow, and a ten-day nap! I’ll be spending the festive season this year between two families – my chosen family in Munich and my birth family in the US.  At the moment, I am in the thick of searching for presents for everyone.  Today I paused from scouring websites and Black Friday sales to ponder why I am giving gifts.  I am reminded of the Biblical story of Christmas that included a brightly shining star which guided the Magi to a king.  The gifts they brought him were the finest of the finest.  And then the shock on their faces when they arrived to see this new guy in charge was only an infant.  Can’t you see the little fella trying to figure out what the heck to do with frankincense and myrrh? So, shall I go for the wow factor and pick up the latest and greatest gadgets, or shall I forgo fun for function?  I’d rather be sleeping.

A few years ago, I began observing Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is a yearly celebration of African-American culture that is held in late December it is based on African harvest traditions and celebrations.  Kwanzaa dates back 1966, and it is a daily celebration of seven principles which are observed on the days between December 26 and January 1.  Each principle has a Swahili name and there is a daily ritual of lighting a candle and meditating on the ideas embodied by Kwanzaa as it becomes the day’s mantra.

Loves decorating: Chris Glass in his „aptm“ in Berlin

1. Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.

3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers‘ and sisters‘ problems our problems and to solve them together.

4. Ujamaa (Cooperative economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

5. Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

6. Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

7.  Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

I share this with you because I think it is always valuable to learn about other cultures, but also because I think these principles actually bring form and function together nicely.  But more than that, they are even more timely today than ever before. Umoja – in the wake of an ongoing pandemic, the call to maintain community is loud and clear.  Kujichagulia – the need for society to redefine its ideals and carve out our priorities and intentions is vital.  Ujima – how we work together to achieve this new era will be the doing (or undoing) of our age. Ujamaa – supporting local businesses and creating our own goods builds bridges, strength, and creativity.  United we are stronger.  Nia – being intentional in our choices to raise each other up versus tearing each other down.  Kuumba – the pandemic has shown us how desperately the planet needs to heal, and it will happen with or without our cooperation. Imani – if a tiny baby had the power to change the way an entire people think and act, what power do you and I have to change the world for the better?  Ask his mother about faith!

As this year ends, and another begins, I hope we will all take a moment to consider how we can make next year better than this one.   I hope we will choose to live daily with empathy and intention and compassion.  I hope we will share this message of hope and joy with the ones we love, and beyond.  And most importantly, I hope we’ll all find more time to  sleep.

Chris Glass, Head of Membership Soho House, Cities Without Houses, Africa & Europe
Janina Steinmetz