New Years Resolutions? Not So Fast! Try Some Karrtsiluni First.

It’s time to make some New Years resolutions.  Or is it? Maybe it will be more productive to sit together in the dark and gloom for awhile.  Consider the practice of karrtsiluni.  Here’s  Majuak_an Inuit elder from Diomede Island in Alaska, describing karrtsiluni to Arctic explorer Knud Rasmussen in his 1932  book The Eagles Gift.

‘What is karrtsiluni?’  I’ll tell you that now.  But you won’t get anything more from me today.’ In the old days, every autumn – we used to hold great festivals or the soul of the whale, and these festivals were always opened with new songs which the men made up.  The spirits had to be summoned with fresh words – worn-out songs must never be used when men and women danced and sang in homage to this great prize of the huntsman – the whale. And while the men were thinking out the words for these hymns, it was the custom to put out all the lights.  The feast house had to be dark and quiet – nothing must disturb or distract the men. In utter silence all these men sat there in the gloom and thought, old and young -ay- down to the very smallest urchin, provided he was old enough to speak.

It was that silence we called karrtsiluni. It means waiting for something to break forth.  For our fore-fathers believed that songs are born in such a silence. While everyone is trying hard to think fair thoughts, songs are born in the minds of men, rising like bubbles from the depths – bubbles seeking breath in which to burst.  ‘So come all holy songs.'”

I like this idea of silent, patient reflection in a spirit of homage to great life holy and full of awe.  So, let’s enjoy New Year’ eve, eat, drink and be merry, but hold off on those calendar driven resolutions tomorrow.

Let’s give ourselves some karrtsiluni time (skip the dark and gloom if you must).  Let’s think fair thoughts, alone and together, and may our new songs, rise to the surface and break forth, carrying us together in the great 2012 hunt for a life of meaning and contribution to each other and the planet.  I look forward to the  expression and celebration of these “new songs” together.  For the moment, I’m turning down the lights.



  1. What a powerful alternative to all my failed resolutions! Instead of telling myself what to do next year, I’ll listen for words to be sung to me.
    I just posted this on my facebook page.

  2. silence is golden-let “someone” else do the talking-maybe it is god breaking through our psychological hide or tribal consciousness. nevertheless eluding our egos for a bit sure helps in the long run. and do it in company with your closest ones.

  3. I like the notion of the new songs to be sung together in night darkness to appeal to the spirits that nurture and feed the community… But why wait until new year’s day…

    Think of all the energy that could be focused if at the stroke of midnight many voices burst out with new songs in the key of A,linking together somewhere over the frozen moon on their way to the north star, then circling back just in time for breakfast…

  4. Thanks once again Bob for showing us the wisdom of the ages, borne out in story, and for letting us off the hook with those Ill-thought out new year’s resolutions! Happy New year and best of luck finding the right words to the new songs!

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