I’m so tired of the screaming and the yelling. In the last month, I’ve been turning to a website – On Being – to escape the outrage. This morning I read All Creation Waits by Gayle Boss and amazed, not for the first time, about how the writing at On Being shows up at just the right time in my life.
Christmas isn’t my favorite holiday. It might rank below Flag Day on my list although my attempts to explain why never fully encompass the complexity of my opinion. Boss’ essay succeeded where my own words fail. Please, read it all, but I found this paragraph essential:
To be sure, some part of “the holiday season” is celebration of the harvest, for us, as it was for our ancestors, even if our personal harvest doesn’t involve crops and barns. We throw a party to mark the end of another year and all it’s brought. We do this in a big, bright, loud way. But for us also, as for our ancestors, the dark end of the year brings unrest. It is an end. It comes without our asking and makes plain how little of life’s course we control. This uncertainty, we don’t know how to mark. And so it marks us. We feel weighted, gloomy even, and we feel guilty because voices everywhere in myriad ways sing out, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
As Charlie Brown would say, “THAT’S IT!”
There’s something buried deep in our DNA that knows this is an unsettling time of year, but we are bombarded by messages that lead you to believe that sort of thinking is wrong.
Something about the outdoor lights, inflatable snowmen, the sales on 60″ televisions, and the singing of Burl Ives is at complete odds with what is happening to the world in December. The light is fading, the days are gray, the grass is browning, the trees seem cold and hungry.
It’s the incongruity of it all that gets to me.
We are complicated creatures: surely we can allow multiple emotions, even those that seem to be in conflict with each other, to coexist without judgment. Without seeming ungrateful. Without the shame of believing you’re doing it all wrong.
This year, 2016, seems particularly illustrative of this notion of the overlapping of opposites. Something is ending – something a lot of us considered to be a great sign of progress in our country. Something else is about to begin – something unknowable but carrying the potential to undo to that progress.
Earlier this month I read and bookmarked another post from this site, The Question of Redemption by Miguel Clark Mallet.
As I’ve detailed, this election was a drenching of ice cold water in my face. I accept now that my neighbors, my country are not what I thought they were. I understand that there is still enough fear, prejudice, and hatred in our country to tip the balance of power. And that far from my lofty egalitarian ideals, baked into our system is the Orwellian notion that while all animals are equal, some animals are more equal than others.
Overcoming that systemic advantage of power to self-preserve seems impossible to me now.
But reading Mallet’s post brought a deeper shame – I might be one of the last people on the planet to realize these things. My browner fellow citizens have been saying it for generations but I had to experience it to believe it. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so complacent, so trusting, so invested in my belief in the goodness of others if I’d just listened.
The question is — as the question always is — what to do next.
I return to my biggest capital T Truth. Nothing is permanent. Nothing.
We’re approaching the darkest days. It’s ok to be unsettled. Experience tells me the light will return. It’s ok to be hopeful. That, I think, is the essence of the season.