Not even ten days to Christmas. Single digits left in December, and counting. Things slowing down as much as they speed up.
Driving past houses and through entire neighborhoods, I’m starting to feel the population as a whole lean toward that collective gesture, which the holidays bring to bear. I search for it window by window. Whole cities turning inward, turning toward each other - what the Christians call the passing of the peace.
“And also with you.”
Christian, Jews, Muslim, etc. etc. under the sky, across the rolling fields of the republic, what’s it matter the denomination? As a nation we move this month like a common flock towards decency, toward kindness, in general. And as I age “in general” means more to me. The most benefit for the greatest number. The widest distribution of affection.
I don’t mind if it’s a little hackneyed, a little commercial, a little heavy on the marketing end. What I feel is the moral earth shift. The tectonics of kindness lean slightly toward love. Day by dwindling day, minute by minute, when you decide to hold the door for the stranger more than a couple steps behind, when you choose to embrace the old friend who hasn’t returned your call in an age, when you watch the year tick down and every moment seems to contain the question, the possibility of transformation: I will cherish this point in my life. I will lend some light, some hope, to someone today. If there’s not a core truth to this season then why does it pester us so?
Why shouldn’t we feel a little guilt? And why shouldn’t it nudge us toward love? To quote Paul McCartney, “What’s wrong with that?”
What might be the greatest miracle at the heart of all the great religions is that they ask for irrational poverty. They’re relentless in their critique of the practicalities of wealth, how wealth creates its own “reason,” its own ecology of selfish thinking.
What I find amazing is that still, thousands of years later, we blush hearing the truth of that critique. Maybe we hear it best about now. We know rapacity doesn’t work, that it’s cruel, and that humans are only exalted by co-operative action. We sing best together.
(And forgive the pronoun, though written by a woman) -“What can I bring him, poor as I am..?”
Ourselves, gestures of generosity in the full figure, praise.
I think that’s what I feel during Christmas. Praise. Thanks. To some God somewhere who keeps speaking to us regardless of our faith.
Ladders up to the same heaven. In the bleak midwinter.
And yet so damn gorgeous.
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