“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
– Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
The holiday season is upon us. While not everyone celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, all of us are bombarded with the sights and sounds and shopping frenzy this time of year in addition to holiday parties with friends and coworkers.
Today, I would like to invite you into a practice around how you show up – regardless of your religious tradition:
For many of us, the holiday season is here – full steam ahead! Perhaps some of the parties are in the past but likely, time with family is yet ahead. And for some, family presents a special challenge: we care about these folks for they are a forever part of our lives if at all possible! Yet, while we may have grown up under the same roof, we have possibly grown apart as adults. Sometimes, connection has disappeared and been replaced by difficult personalities, different values, tension.
This season, I invite you – whatever your personal situation – to consider this:
It’s that time of year. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas with a visit from Santa Claus, you can’t help but hear about him, especially here in the US. Over the years, I have grown to want less and less of what Santa has come to represent: over-the-top giving of stuff that no one needs.
Today, however, I am pausing to see things differently.
What is the meaning of Santa Claus?
Santa is generosity, magic, joy, delight. Santa gives without expectation. Santa follows laws of cause and effect (have you ever gotten coal in your stocking?) but is otherwise non-judgmental and unconditional love. Santa offers hope. Santa is a guide for children who need a reason to do the right thing. Despite the Santa tracker on the news, Santa is invisible, coming and going without being noticed. Santa is simply Love personified, the real deal, that which many of us aspire to.
Why NOT believe?
What is the power in believing?
As I pondered that this morning, I thought about those people in my life who brought Santa to life over the years for me and the impact of their actions. I felt loved and wanted and seen. I felt the joy and delight that “Santa” wants for me. I felt the excitement and anticipation of Christmas morning. Because of Santa Claus, many human beings gift our world with Santa’s superhuman traits.
What’s wrong with that? Nothing!
No longer a child, I am aware that I get to be Santa now. I get to bring the love and joy and generosity and delight. I get to give people a reason to believe in the basic goodness of life. And I know the joy of giving, of bringing joy to others. How about you?
What if you believed in Santa?
What would believing create in you?
Here in the United States, a celebration of our nation’s freedom is around the corner. I’ve paused often lately to remember and appreciate how free I really am. It is a gift to have been born into the “home of the free” and for me, into the white middle-class, a gift I don’t want to take for granted.
Yet, there is another type of freedom – or bondage – that human beings inflict on themselves. How free are you to live in integrity, to feel your feelings, to expand into your fullest and finest self-expression? How free do you believe you are? How free do you allow yourself to be? And, how, by your attitude, words and actions, do you free or imprison others? Do you allow your loved ones, your friends and colleagues, to be themselves? Do you treat others with respect and free them in your mind to be who they are? For a few additional questions around freedom and imprisonment, check out: