Christmas Blues


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Category: Reflections Date: 22 Dec 03


What are you if religious and social influences include Catholic schools, a Hindu father, a Muslim mother, and existential philosophy that questions if you exist at all? It creates a blank state. It makes you question everything. You stop thinking in absolutes. You are open to everything and closed to all absolutes, all dogma.


You pare everything down to basics. You don't go through a church, mosque, temple, religious site, guru, priest, maulvi, tithes, mantras, rosaries, suras to acknowledge those moments when you are sure there is a higher being.


Those miraculous moments when the timing is too perfect, the web of circumstances that pull you out of deep waters, out of despair, out of hopelessness too intricate to be called coincidence. That's when you talk directly from your heart to the life force to your maker.

But Christmas is a time of the blues-like all great festivals of the world it forces you to take stock of yourself. Despite all the materialism it has come to represent, despite the corny films and tired platitudes, we are moved by its essential spirit, and reminded of our mortality. The frenzy of good wishes, the pantomimes, and films where the toughest mortals melt into a kind of universal gooey cauldron of giving is our acknowledgement that we need other people. That we need to give to receive.


But why the blues. Why now? Why not? We spend most of our days running away from ourselves, trying to pretend that time is not passing, that there's always tomorrow to make up for the all the giving we didn't do. Then we find there isn't that much time after all. At Christmas when we take stock we find a tree is just a tree, and a perfume is just that, and that houses stand and bank accounts sit while people die as we all will.


I'm not being grim. I'm being real Take stock. Look at yourself. You may have a lovely home, and beautiful kids, and a great relationship, but you know at Christmas (especially because you are forced to measure yourself against people who have nothing, forced to tackle that vagrant in the eye and see that she is human,) that we all live in a house of cards. Pull a wrong card, randomly, and you might find it all falls down. The relationship you thought was rich and complex and full can collapse. Perhaps it was all in your head. Children are fragile, a source of perpetual anxiety because you can't protect them from their own mortality. Sickness can freeze an entire family.


Everything can all fall down and at Christmas we are all like little children desperately sticking our lives together with unreliable cello tape.


When a precious friend brought me an exquisite carving of the Buddha from India and I examined it under a Christmas tree, hearing the laugher of girl children peal like many many bells, thinking of my friends and family and the people whose lives we weave and are woven in and out of, seeing the soft rain glow in the green lamplight and moonlight, I spewed out to her much of what I have written here allowing my lament on human fragility, frailty and fear to pour out like lava.


I didn't expect that in addition to her gift of the Buddha (which in essence is the gift of knowledge because here was another door to open, another way of living to examine) this beautiful girl was disguised as one of the wise kings. I didn't expect her response which was both comforting and real.


"We are all alone. All this (she gestured towards a home, -all the solidity of treasured things, mementoes of times past) is transient. One day you and I will be 60 or 70. This will all go. The relationships as you know them will go. People will die. Children will leave. The bodies we work on now will fall down. And we won't care. Beautiful fabrics will get moth- ridden. The thing we need to face is this: (and its not such a bad thing) Life is a very individual journey through a tunnel for each of us. Like monkeys in a troop we have human needs along the way - like the need for companionship, for affirmation, for love.


We need companionship to ease the tension, to dull the fear of the dark.


But in every moment you knowingly walk through that tunnel alone, you gather immense power, you take back the power that was always yours. And with that knowledge you can participate in the world without being unduly attached.


And perhaps that lack of attachment, the knowledge of transience will allow us to shed the tinsel ego that comes with the material world and allow us to be a little more generous spirited, more forgiving, spread more cheer (in a real way like giving a child an education rather than a toy) and infinitely more humble this Christmas.


Merry Christmas and may you feel all the gooey chocolately feelings you can.

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur