Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas Joy

Americans are advised to focus on our marketability and security, but we have all heard and read anecdotes similar to this one: At a 25th class reunion of Yale Law School, half were unhappy or bored with their work as lawyers, despite making comfortably high incomes.

I wish this comment by Bertrand Russell would invade our marketplace: “It is preoccupation with possessions . . . that prevents us from living freely and nobly.”

John Stuart Mill said that those only are happy who are fixed on something other than their own happiness—on the happiness of others or some ideal end. Then, “they find happiness by the way.” Chinese Taoist Chuang-tse described happiness as “the absence of striving for happiness.” The renowned missionary Albert Schweitzer observed that real happiness comes from serving. Michael Lerner and T.S. Eliot observed that joy comes from sacrifice.

William James wrote that to feel vitally alive we need to follow our inner voice, the one saying, “This is the real me.” But “many of us believe in one way and live in quite another.” So said Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, author of My Grandfather’s Blessings who has done ground-breaking work with cancer patients. “The worst thing in life isn’t death,” she said. “The worst thing in life might be to miss it.” She saw people approaching the end of life, never having really lived.

Remen and others are quoted in World Ark, a magazine by Heifer International I suggest it as a way of finding satisfaction in Christmas buying.

Heifer gives animals we buy to needy families. The gift keeps giving, because the animals keep supplying food and offspring. And a whole community benefits because each recipient family is required to pass on a healthy offspring of their animal to another family. In addition, Heifer trains the whole community in sustainable agriculture. Besides heifers, their catalog offers goats, sheep, llamas, rabbits, bees, and much more.

Piling more material stuff onto kids and grownups who have enough violates the spirit of Christmas. Instead of spending money on gadgets and trinkets that burden our shared home, the planet earth, let’s light up the eyes of loved ones with gifts bringing genuine joy. Words of appreciation. A pledge to perform a needed task. An object we’ve spent hours making. Or, in their name, an animal from Heifer that brings life to a family and community.

December 22, 2014

This gorgeous piece of writing captures my sentiments during December dark and provides welcome relief from frenetic commercialism. The gift of wintersolstice:
. . . darkness to me is alluring; it calls me to turn inside, to be hushed, to pay attention.

The truth is: Darkness draws out our deep-down depths. Darkness is womb, is seed underground. 

Darkness is where birthing begins, incubator of unseen stirring, essential and fundamental growing.

December, I like to think, is when God cloaks the world — or at least the northern half of the globe — in what amounts to a prayer shawl. December’s darkness invites us inward, the deepening spiral — paradoxical spiral — we deepen to ascend, we vault from new depths. 

At nightfall in December, at that blessed in-between hour, when the last seeds of illumination are scattered, and the stars turn on — all at once as if the caretakers of wonder have flown through the heavens sparking the wicks — we too, huddled in our kitchens or circled ‘round our dining room tables, we strike the match. We kindle the flame. We shatter darkness with all the light we can muster.
Maybe we’re most purely and purposefully alive when we turn our backs to — press against — a guzzled-down life that pays no attention, that goes with the flow, that “kills a few hours,” that takes it — all of it, any of it — for granted.
I’ve chosen to quote non-religious passages. Religion inhabits this piece as well, but spirituality does not depend on it. Non-believers can practice sacrament too, knowing it means an outward sign of inward intention:
Live sacramentally: Sit down to a dinner table — even dinner for one — set with intention. Ditch fast food. Embrace all that’s slow. And with purpose. Light candles . . .
Read MORE.   Accept the invitation of December. 

Catherine Young said...
Thank you, Jeanette for that warm and encouraging message.

December 19, 2014

This is a Christmas present to my readers. I’ve been breaking out into chuckles of delight ever since I saw it. Just what I needed!  A message that dispels my morose worries during these dark days at Solstice.

It comes from Michael Beckwith, a trans-denominational minister. He says in Unity magazine that when negatives want to take over,
I highly recommend going to a private place and yelling as passionately as you can:
“I don’t understand why I always have more money than I need!
 Why is everything always working together for my good?
 Why is it that I’m always loved and supported by a friendly universe?
 Why is my life always working?


Jeanette said...

Kathleen was unable to post her comment on the blog and sent it directly to me instead. All readers can do that by clicking on Contact and my name. Here's Kathleen's comment:
We give at Christmas through each year and our children appreciate it. Last year, I made my own cards for our grandchildren from the pictures on the Heifer site and included information about what the pig and the sheep do for other children/ families/communities who are poor. I bought a little stuffed animal pig and a sheep to represent the gifts in their honor so they had a more tangible gift to hold and understand. The adults did not need anything other than a card! We gave these gifts on Christmas Eve. ( has great e-mail cards as well as fold out cards it mails to the donor so you DO NOT have to make your own.)

It is especially meaningful to give to those less fortunate at Christmas instead of buying things that we or our loved ones do not need or won't use. If we continue to tell our little ones the story of Jesus who was born in a stable and who grew up to be an advocate for the poor, then when we celebrate his birth, we should honor his life by also advocating for the poor.

Irving Karchmar said...

Your previous post was really a wonderful tribute to the true spirit of Christmas, giving to others as a family. Of course Christmas has been a travesty.

And did google buy blogspot? All the blogspot blogs now cannot be commented on except if you have a google account.

Peace and Many Blessings!