We stare at our children and envy their lightness of being, like snowflakes swept along the hard edge of winter’s first breath. They are spared the cares that shadow their parent’s lives. Their Christmas orbits are drawn with the truest of lines; you are their center, and they yours.
Today, responsibility’s snare belongs elsewhere. The Christmas notes pirouette from page to page in their imaginations, unrestrained, hopelessly romantic, choreographed less by material expectations than by the blessings of imagination, family and the warmth of holiday traditions.
As parents we should dance a little in their world. If only for an imaginary moment.
In this warped age of speed, impatience and expectations, it is difficult to disengage from a Christmas pace that threatens to rip the weave that binds us. It is only through disengagement that we are able to renew our perspectives, to reset our imaginations, and to rekindle our hopes.
As we retrace our footsteps, we remember the joy and wonder of Christmas as children and wish it were something that could be bottled and reopened each December, a compelling force that would spill forth from one home to another, from one nation to another, yielding to no malevolent force, political or otherwise, digital or analogue. That need seems acute today in a world marked more by decisiveness than togetherness and one data-suffused.
As tattered and bruised as our landscape appears, the Christmas hope endures because man alone is capable of reason and compassion. When we allow ourselves to reflect, we understand the only power that overcomes hate is love. As with relationships, that understanding needs tending and renewal, and through renewal comes the seasonal pledge to work toward better communities and a better world. This work can best be accomplished by building upon shared needs, which means working to overcome that which divides us. It means understanding, and practicing that to give is better than to receive and to treat others as we would be treated.
As with all things of worth, the work is hard. Society’s inertia permits our perspectives to be blurred by the incidental, the ephemeral. We drift from universal truths of the heart and allow ourselves to be consumed by the self-centered battles contained wholly within our selfish shadows. We forget Hamlet’s words: “There are more things in heaven and earth...than are dreamed of in your philosophy.”
We allow the negative to stage its battle for our soul, not asking why, not understanding, or accepting the futility of pessimism, not understanding that pessimism is a death march all of its own. We allow ourselves to be consumed by the American culture of victimization, which swallows not only truth, but any semblance of balance and moderation. We should heed the words of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: “Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world” and raise our aim above past horizons.
That is particularly important in the world we now inhabit. We can do better, and the drive to do so is the defining value of a life well lived,. This is the value we must pass on to our children if they are to experience bountiful lives and if they are to be part of a community working not at odds with one another, but in harmony.
Our blessings should be recognized for what they are, nothing less than extraordinary. Yes, even in today’s tumultuous world. Our nation does not suffer the starvation, the displacement, or the lack of freedom that weigh so heavily on the shoulders of people across the globe. If the place of birth is an arbitrary thing, then how blessed are we to live in the cold north woods of Vermont. It would be simpler to calculate the brightness of the star’s twinkle than the odds of our good fortune. These blessings should be accepted as our base, the place from which no retreat is acceptable and from which our toil is directed.
As the earth’s spin brings us back to expected rituals, we should continue the day with imaginations overflowing. Let us hear the peal of bells rustled by the north’s wind, and imagine the tinkling of icicles. Like the breathless pause before the crescendo, let nature’s silence wash over us as its own music. Our sense of wonder should be infectious, and encouraged to roam freely, buttressed by the knowledge that the need to love and to be loved is the only truth that endures. It is the only truth upon which people can build and one that defies the measurements demanded by our analytic age. For it to thrive requires the active, not the passive voice.
Christmas is a time to stop outside ourselves, to nestle in the hearts of others, to create the wonder of man in our souls, to be thankful for the creator’s hand in giving us hope. Let us be thankful, and keep alive the mystery that inflates our children’s sense of wonder.
It is said to be a time for the children, those young believers who burst upon Christmas morning like the swirling snow in a winter snow globe. The day’s magnetism is about to be confirmed, their imaginations will burst forth, their deepest inner hopes are to be buoyed by the unqualified love that swaddles them. They soon forget the gifts, but they will forever remember the magical dance of hope and love, served in equal portions, and, as adults they will spend their remaining years trying to recreate that magical dance for their children, just as we have for them. That is the lightness of being that needs to be carried forth this holiday season, and beyond, and something to be treasured by the young and old alike.