Considering the fact that we may well be fast approaching the end of civilization, if not the world, we deserve a whole hell of a lot more celebration and mirth-making than we’re getting.
Collectively, we grasp for this in large part without any conscious awareness of the fact. There’s this kind of foggy block just sitting there on our calendar that isn’t like the ordinary parts of the year, no matter how anybody tries to make it so. You know what I’m talking about: it starts sometime between December 21 and December 24 and lasts until sometime between January 2 and January 6. The hours spent on these days seem to count differently, as though comprising some sort of no-time or time-outside-of-time.
Of course, most of us – myself included – have to work throughout this stretch, if perhaps (if we are lucky) interrupted by extra time off, perhaps even paid, for the official holidays of Christmas and New Year’s Day. But even the workdays aren’t regular workdays. I mean, the lucky among us experience a slower, more laid back pace in the workplace, but it’s much more than that – even the stressful, fast-paced shifts we put in over this period just seem sort of different.
The anticipatory magical glow of Christmas trees and Christmas lights and other flamboyant seasonal decorations – for those of us who get down with that sort of thing – transforms in character later in the day on the 25th, no longer anticipatory but still magical. Most people who engage in this behavior don’t take down their trees and lights for another week, and some wait until the 6th in a nod to the remaining vestiges of the rarely-celebrated Epiphany (also known as the Twelfth Day of Christmas). The luckiest among us give things and get them and see people we like whom we don’t always see, and this kind of thing also continues to go on well past the solstice and Christmas Day.
To me, it’s plain – despite the dismal character of our culture, we instinctively know this time is special, perhaps even sacred, and is as such set aside and apart and worthy of exceptions and merriment. Intrinsically, cosmically even, we need this. I know that some have had bad personal experiences and estranged families and harbor (understandable) dark feelings with this time of year, but my position on this issue has always been firm and simple: our health, strength, and well-being depends upon our experience of whatever amount of celebration, allowance, rest, and/or partying we are able to cobble together as individuals and as groups helping one another, and that this need takes on an immediate urgency during the year’s nadir.
Nothing’s ever greeting card-perfect, but I can tell you I’ve been taking my own advice – even if it’s been a bit of a struggle on some days when I wish it wouldn’t be. But after lengthy examination, I believe myself justified in a certain sense of triumph, for I have been celebrating, quite successfully, and even now I celebrate still. Thrashing as best I can through the thick brush of burnout and anxiety and exhaustion, I’ve allowed myself to fully confront the potent and powerful magic of these darkest days – and even to become intoxicated by it.
I need it. There is so much work to be done, but I know I need this. And so do you. If our society and employers and families and concerns will not facilitate the joyous times to which we are entitled by right, it is our responsibility to ourselves and everyone around us to take it, by force if necessary. If nothing else, do this for yourself: pause and take a breath, in whatever manner and to whatever extent you are able.
That last ride is over now – and the next ride is about to begin. Right now, it’s all latent and potential and preliminary. Right now, it’s still no-time. Take a minute.
Yes, 2016 is over. If you’re one of the many people – perhaps, it would seem to me, from an unscientific survey of my social media feeds, most people – who had a particularly bad time in 2016, this one goes out to you. You need that pause and breath more than usual, and more than anyone else.
And I’ll be honest, this time, “anyone else” includes me; hopefully you won’t hate, but I had an absolute blast this year. I fully recognize that you need and deserve blessings and respite much more than I do – although even beyond my admitted bias, I see very little objective evidence to suggest the year itself (and not its associated vibe) can “objectively” be considered worse than any of the others. I mean, I throw quotes over the word – the truth of the matter is that there is no objectivity and my view is just as subjective as yours. I do recognize that a lot of bad things happened in the world, wars and ecological disasters left and right, not to mention the giant white elephant of anxiety that was and is the 2016 presidential election.
Most of that can seem unique, and these things were perhaps all felt very acutely during this last trip around the sun, but I would suggest the truth of this experience is merely that the ugly things and deaths and tragedies and setbacks that happen every year are now happening in a way that makes them impossible to ignore. That’s raw, painful – even for me, even having a pretty damn good time, it all often feels like a sack of bricks to the abdomen.
But without seeming too flippant, I have to wonder if perhaps this is necessarily a bad thing. I don’t mean to be a downer, but I don’t really see conditions such as these improving in 2017 or any other upcoming year. My suggestion is that our recent experience is indicative of How Things Are Going To Be From Here On Out, and if the difficulties and anguish of this year serve to wake us up to that fact, we take an important step. Only if we recognize the difficulty – the daunting difficulty – of the days and years that lie ahead can we adopt the practices, complete the exercises, and develop the processes by which we can best confront the path that lies before us all as we continue to step gingerly through life together.
I won’t be a jackass and pretend I’ve got that figured out. I don’t. That’s why I’m here in the first place. That’s what this project is all about.
I mean, that’s probably plenty to chew on, right?
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Solstice, Io Saturnalia, Happy Kawanza, and cheers to anyone and everyone that leaves out.
May everyone who had a traumatic 2016 be visited by blessings of comfort, no matter what lies in store. I mean that. I want that for you.
Much love. Salaam.