Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas: the rhythm's the thing

TIME, even to science is still a bit of a mystery.
But Earth-time’s leading edge, as it scours its circuits of this turning planet, seems to sweep up the energies of the day, of the night — the joys and torments, creations and annihilations — and radiate them to the infinities.
Each day, it’s all just a little bit different. We are different. And — if we put aside whatever fears unsettled us yesterday — we can breakfast on new insights, opportunities and hopes.
But, here in the north, winter has come.
The nectar’s gone. The fruit have fallen.
The frosts have bitten: bees huddle in their catacombs. Squirrels, finger-lickin’ fat, snuggle in their nests.
The life-sapped stillness of bare trees and greyed grass tell us it’s over, dead, done, ended.
And isn’t the World a mess, all things considered? Walking the dog, I find the weakened grass revealing more of the roadside trash. It makes me wonder what General Petraeus is buying his wife for Christmas.
Christmas… the birthday party for… no, not for Santa, for Yeshua — for “Jesus”, whose ministry became the foundation stone of Christianity… or, ah, alternatively, it’s just the “season”.
The date was not arbitrarily chosen. It coincides with the northern winter solstice.
So Christianity celebrates not just a person, but all that person stood for …and everything he came to stand for: new hope, new life, new joy… the possibility of redemption.
The solstice is easily explained: have an obedient child hold a basketball. It’s the sun. Take a wee green pea carefully between thumb and forefinger: it’s about the Earth’s relative size. Hold the pea on a 23.5 degrees angle. Which end is nearer the basketball? The top? The bottom? Now, walk a big circle, counterclockwise, keeping about 90 feet away from the child (if he’s still there), with your attention fixed on the pea. Watch what happens to its “top” and “bottom”. If you suddenly find yourself in heavy traffic or a neighbor’s kitchen, move the child and start again.
Once around the circle represents a year. Half way around is six months. Take your time. This is important. Stop when you get to June and consider the pea: which end is closer now? The rest is self-evident.
Actually, we don’t need the seasons explained.
What matters is the rhythm.
But let’s not rush ahead to the “first century”: it’s a long story.
Since Neolithic times, the shortest day of the year has been marked as a turning point: after it, the lengthening days will lead into spring and usher in all the beauty and abundance of another summer.
Nature had not trashed life, after all. Joy and plenty with goodness would return: refreshed and revitalized. Cultures all over the planet drew hope and vitality from the solstice.
The ancient Babylonians celebrated Zagmuk; for Persians it was Deygan; old Anglo-Saxons held a “mother’s night”: Modraniht. At the same time, across the Atlantic, the Incas were into Inti Raymi.
In 1995, in Brighton, England, a group of New Age Brits launched a Burning the Clocks festival as a counter-attack on the debauch of commercialized Christmas. Oddly, at least from a Canadian perspective, it was called off in 2009 because snow and icy weather were forecast.
In the Northern Hemisphere, this year’s winter solstice falls on 21 December. In the Southern Hemisphere it fell on June 20. There, despite the milder climate, Maori people observe Matariki (the rising of the Pleiades constellation).
Which brings us, at last, back to Christmas… and, whether you or I are Christians, or not, it’s what the longer days MEAN that matter.
Think about those longer days.
Remember them?
The wildflowers?… the bees?
Remember witnessing their constant relationship. It has been going on, just as you saw it last summer, for 100 million years or more.
And, remember, in sustaining itself, the bee, fly, wasp or butterfly (whatever pollinator you have in mind) also sustains the plant. In fact, through its ancestors, it helped that plant to evolve, and made possible today’s diversities of all we see, smell and taste among flowering plants, their fruit and in byproducts like beeswax and honey. Few of the fruit or vegetables we eat would have formed without a pollinator.
Moreover, all of these good things have long served humans as sources of inspiration. Inspiration is as essential as food and water.
Sure, it can all be explained. But, when we look for “meaning”, instead of walking around in circles, we see that “the whole” is far greater than the sum of its parts. Everything has been benefitting.
Pollinators are creatures for which we seldom spare a thought, far less esteem as our evolutionary elders or teachers. Yet, in sustaining themselves, they benefit us all — even in mid-winter — honey and lemon is a great treatment for winter colds — and, apart from the odd sting, they do us no harm.
We seem to have fallen into a dangerous place where, in sustaining ourselves, we damage our planet (including the flowers and their pollinators). We impoverish, dupe and damage each other and each others’ cultures; we surround ourselves with “collateral damage” … perhaps we’d do well to heed more humbly the teachings of the beauty and abundance that embrace us?
And, doing that, we can feast on the hope and joy the “holiday season” offers: the hopes that Christmas offers. Forget the economist who tells you that deepening your consumer debt for Christmas puts a great, passing spark into “The Economy”.
There are far more important things get going with: new hope, new life, new joy. Even the possibility of redemption. Enjoy!

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