Holidays time to remember common experiences
Sitting here at my computer, I can look out on to the street that runs in front of our house. Cars are splashing through rain to the four-way stop and darting through impatiently, after having to pause on a busy day. It is only weeks until Dec. 25, and the greeting cards that have been arriving show pictures of angels and snow-covered trees.
It seems that, during December, people are in a rather cheerful mood no matter their religious beliefs, or absence of them. Maybe The Salvation Army bells, the seasonal parties and the festive lights elevate our spirits. But, I believe, beyond that there really is a special spirit of the holidays that hovers over us this time of year.
Christians, Muslims and Jews have different names for this almighty power. They each go to their own place of worship, and some of their beliefs may be different. Just as we don’t all speak the same language, look alike or think alike, we don’t practice the same rituals of faith. But most of us are inspired and adhere to a purpose in life beyond our own daily comings and goings. We need this strength on a cold, rainy day in Indiana.
We have just come through a long and cantankerous political election. During the process, we became aware of the existence in our country of deep divides in various beliefs among our citizens. Previously, I suppose, we may have thought that we had general agreements on most social, economic and political issues. Not so, we find now that the election is over.
I had several friends tell me before Thanksgiving that they dreaded going home for the family reunion. They feared family members had voted for different candidates, and they weren’t sure how civil the conversations would be.
Years ago, I saw a wonderful exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art. I have probably written about it before as I cannot forget its message. It was a small wooden ladle. The text read, ‘Drinking out of a common ladle solidifies the oneness of the group.’ We do not drink out of a common cup these days because we are too individualized, too specialized and definitely too sanitized, but we can share common experiences and events that give us the same feeling of belonging and camaraderie.
Here in Indiana, the bicentennial celebration, with all the commemoration of the past and planning for the future, gave us many shared experiences. It has been for us a ‘common ladle.’ Now, we have the holidays with their traditional practices and hopes of a good future for all. Are they not also a form of ‘common ladle’? Can we find our shared values as Christians, Muslims and Jews? We are a united, broad family of believers in a divine power that enters our lives. We stand together in opposition to those forces that would pit us against each other and take away our freedom of religion.
What a joyous feeling to know that, in the awesome universe, we are united with everything around us. We are not alone quivering in the dark. We acknowledge something grander, more permanent and loving than we can conceive.
As you stop in silent meditation during the next busy weeks, feel the sense of belonging to the whole family of man. Try to expand your mind and heart to embrace your entwinement with elements beyond the eye and ear, for we are connected to all that exists.
When I first heard of a ‘cyber war,’ I thought it meant that people who wanted to fight could take their armaments way out in space and battle it out with each other, while leaving those on earth unscathed. But, no; it is the interruption of our communication systems that connect us as communities, families and nations. Cyber war is aimed at disrupting GPS systems that direct our travel, medical procedures and business dealings. Yes, it reminds us that we are each a member of a big attached conga line and we better figure out how to dance in rhythm while doing our own steps.
This is the season for giving and thankfulness. Next time you hear a carol, witness a Santa Claus or eat a holiday treat, think of people around the world who are sharing similar traditions; some may be in refugee camps, hospitals or snazzy condos. They are all part of our family, not just during these holidays that remind us to be loving, but when the cold and challenging winds of late winter hit us.