I hope your winter holidays were filled with warmth and joy.
We are in the midst of a cloudy, chill early January morning. We are promised rain later, each drop putting further distance between us and the long summer drought.
We are in the gap between Christmas and Epiphany, having passed the Western New Year celebration and said goodby to 2020. We look back at the challenges posed and met in the last year, grieve for the terrible losses we have collectively suffered, and nurture hope for the year to come.
New Year’s Day we made our customary journey to the ocean. Rather than walking the few blocks down to the harbor, we traveled to a park about an hour from here, picnicked in the car, and took a good many photographs as a storm approached. Near the water a solitary dandelion bloomed.
I enjoy American football so watched bits of a few games this bowl season. College football is a Holiday tradition that has nothing at all to do with the holidays, save some possible throwback to ancient games of the solstice. Somehow enough college teams remained sufficiently healthy for some games to be played.
I have been thinking about those moments when memories of past lives press themselves into our awareness, pushing contemporary anxieties out of the way with a firm, “We have all been here before.” It seems unlikely most of us have lived many human lives, although some may have. Rather, there is a flowing stream of awareness stretching as far back, and forward, as one can see. When we are gifted with an awareness of the great sweep of continuing consciousness, everything changes. After all, what is left except the possibility that this time around we might be more kind and loving?
For several years we have used the same perfectly lovely synthetic Christmas tree in order to fend off family allergies. We would prefer a real tree, maybe one we cut ourselves. Complexly, that involves taking a life, even as it encourages the growth of other trees and the sequestering of more carbon. Thinking about this I am reminded of my father’s insistence that no part of any sacrificed being be wasted. We live a paradox: all lives are sacred yet we cannot live without taking lives; our continued existence is dependent on the death of other beings.
There is a sacred agreement implied in the notion that all lives are holy: because we are all sacred and connected, we must hold one another dear. For those of us who hold this view, every action is imbued with weight, and it is impossible to simultaneously be aware and sacrifice any lives wantonly. (Sadly perhaps, awareness comes and goes….) This stands in sharp contrast to market capitalism which views all lives as commodities and threatens the destruction of our species, along with uncountable others.
The Christmas story says Herod killed all Jewish males under the age of two in the hope of destroying the Messiah he feared would topple his reign. Of course this ploy failed, but did so at the cost of immense suffering. This year we find ourselves besieged by many would be Herods and the fate of the world once more hangs in the balance. It is good to remember that even this madness must pass.