Sunday, December 15, 2013

Why Christmas draws us all together

So many celebrations toward the end of the year – August saw the Muslim Eid;

November saw Hindu Deepavali and Jewish Hannukah;

December sees the beginning of Kwanzaa, a festival celebrated in the US by Americans of African descent , and a relatively recent celebration although the irony is that most Africans are Christian and Kwanzaa is probably not celebrated much in Africa;

and of course,  the Christian Christmas which has also become a secular celebration -

and then in the New Year, the Buddhist and later, the Chinese New Years.

All are part of the rich tapestry of celebration, some religious, some not and all sourced in our pagan past and drawn from times before many of the major religions appeared.

They all represent the desire and capacity of human nature to express in symbolic terms, our connection, to each other, to this world and to the ineffable.

Out of all the celebrations, Christmas has become the only one which has manifested in secular as well as religious form and has found a place in cultures around the world, no matter what religion people may practise.

It is a common bond whatever one’s religion or lack of religion and the image of Santa Claus, also drawn from pagan belief, can be seen around the world – symbolising giving and good times.

For all those who decry the secular Christmas I would only say that where you can have people of all faiths, Christian, Moslem, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or whatever, – or no faith at all – coming together in a celebration which can speak to all and is particular to none, then we have a powerful bond of love, connection, caring and good times. When you hear Christmas carols and see Christmas Trees and Father Christmas in Delhi, Dubai, Dublin, Damascus, Darwin, Denpasar, Denver, Derby, Dar as Salaam, Dunedin, Dusseldorf and Dwangwa you know that we have more in common than we might imagine.

Merry Christmas is a phrase which draws us all together in ways never dreamt of in times past. It is also a reminder that, as Jung said, symbol is the lost language of the soul and the symbols we can share reveal how much alike we are, even as we may believe there is much which keeps us apart.

It is the season to be merry and to rejoice in each other and the gift of giving.

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, to everyone.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Mandela as saint and devil but mostly as a human being.....

It is important to value and honour the best qualities in Nelson Mandela but not to make the mistake of deifying him or seeing him as more than human. Like Gandhi he had within him capacities for the best and the worst of human nature - he was human and not exceptional and that makes the best of what he was more admirable given his experiences and his nature.

Mandela in his time was a terrorist, a womaniser, a man with a temper, an autocrat and obstinate ... he was no saint and it is the best of his behaviour which reflects more brightly when seen against the darker side.

We live in a time when people seek to project the best and the worst of human behaviour onto others, onto single figures and in the doing we make a mockery of them and of human nature in general.

Admire Mandela but admire him as a flawed human being with enormous weaknesses as well as strengths for therein lies the ability of such notable figures, to truly inspire us all.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Embracing all not letting go

There is a peace that comes with reaching a point in a relationship where you no longer need or even want anything from the other and can accept the place you are in and where they find themselves, with compassion, contentment and peace.

I suspect it might be called 'letting go' but really it is just finding your way through a process until you reach a place where you are ready to accept whatever is. In that sense it is not so much letting go as embracing all.


While there were too many social rules in the past, the signs are that today there are too few.

Social rules exist to provide a structure for a harmonious society: too many and a society is rigid and intolerant and too few and a society is inconsiderate and rude.

There was a time when people rang or wrote to say thankyou for a meal. No longer. This probably matters less than the lack of thankyous for kind, considerate or helpful acts or for gifts given, even those gifts you don't particularly like but which once would have been viewed from the perspective that it is the thought that counts.

We were brought up to say thankyou whenever someone did something for us, gave something to us, invited them into their homes, fed us or acted in any way which was a gesture of giving.

We brought our children up the same way but social attitudes are not formed by parents alone and some will always forget what they were taught and follow the lead of the herd. And the lead of the herd in this day and age is generally selfish if not self-obsessed and dismissive, if not disdainful of the feelings of others.

Levels of thoughtlessness at best and rudeness at worst and gracelessness at best and cruelty at worst, abound across modern social structures.

It's the 'instant fix,' 'me first and last,' ' I want and must have and will get' generation.

There is and always has been something called 'the right thing' because generally it is the considerate, polite, mature and kind thing to do in a given circumstance. We dismiss such social rules at our peril and squander our children's heritage in the doing.