by Dr. Julie Brons
Every year at 6 pm on New Year’s Eve, a scene plays out in the vast majority of Danish living rooms. People gather around the TV and wait for our Queen, Queen Margrethe, to appear right after the sound of the bell on the Town hall tower tolling 6 pm. Everyone quiets as we wait for our queen to give us insights on our year that’s past, sometimes chastising us gently, mostly lifting us up with gratitude and always leaving us with words of wisdom for the next year.
The speech for New Years Eve 2017 was no different. With hushed voices and the eyes of her people directed at the screen, Queen Margrethe gave her speech, not using a teleprompter, but as always written on thick sheets of paper that she methodically turns over as she finishes each paragraph. (I love my Queen. Can you tell? I love her not only for us, but for all peoples of the world. I love her wisdom and thoughtfulness.) In this speech there were words about the need for people with various skills and backgrounds. “One person crunches numbers, others are good at getting customers in the shop, some are good at teaching, while others have the gift of care giving… nothing is finer or better than the other; we need all of it, and all of us.” She goes on to ponder the busyness of life, especially the life of a family with children, saying every day is filled with demands that have to be met, and decisions that have to be made. She says, “I don’t think that one can manage to engage in everything.”
After saying that, Queen Margrethe gave us a thought for action – an encouragement for growth for next year.
“I will give a suggestion that we sometimes do something other than what we usually do. Something outside of the everyday practical chores. Try something that is NOT necessary, something there is no need for, something ‘unyttig.’”
Unyttig … what in the world is that? You have most likely heard of the Danish phenom Hygge (it’s not really a phenom, it’s just how we do life… i.e. lighting candles when it is dark.) The closest translation I can come up with for Unyttig is unnecessary or unneeded, or not useful. She goes on to say that it is not the same for everyone – for some it may be reading a biography or going for a walk on the beach, or maybe it is a sewing project. The key is, she says, to stimulate your senses in new ways to grow your mental horizon. To challenge your status quo. “Do something that speaks to your senses, something that feeds your thoughts, something that fertilizes your imagination, and something that can make our world bigger. That is perhaps not ‘unyttig after all.”
I love it. When your Queen challenges you to try something new, I think you should say “Thank you, Your Majesty… challenge accepted.” So with that, I pass on the Royal Challenge from the Queen of Denmark. Find your unyttig thing to learn or do this year. Carve out the time in your schedule for it. In a year take stock of how it has changed your thinking or well being. Enjoy the journey of discovery and as the Queen says… Gud Bevare Danmark (God preserve Denmark).