Hard to believe it’s only a handful of days until Christmas, Solstice traditionally setting the mood for a mindful — some might even say sacred — spiritual event. And although there are rampant examples of cutthroat consumption and humbug out there, this is one of the rare times in the year when the spotlight lingers on kindness, generosity and giving.
While that has the capacity to create a year-end more peaceful than the other eleven months have produced, we could heal much of what ails us by celebrating these attributes weekly, hourly, daily and without fail, year-round.
We weren’t all that mindful this year, I’m afraid. This year the winter celebration comes at a time when international news is spiking — perhaps anticipating Saturn’s coming slide into Sagittarius — and anxiety over the Republican takeover looms, though some of us are too entrenched in personal holiday angst to notice. And while it sounds counter-intuitive, let’s take some comfort in having reached enough maturity to understand that if we’re staring down our personal demons this holiday, that may be a very productive thing.
It’s all part and parcel of our project to become authentic. Time to observe not just the world around us, but ourselves. Time to give up the pretense that we don’t know when things are coming when we so obviously do. Despite blanket protestations about how shocked we are when pivotal happenings suddenly appear in our headlights — summoning our internal Drama Queens and a long list of ain’t-it-awful’s — humans really have to work at being oblivious to all that’s going on around them.
If a stranger gets in our personal space, for instance — violates our auric field — we can instantly feel the energy shift, sometimes strongly enough to raise our hackles and send us running for an exit, intent on hunting down a smudge stick. In short, our instincts are working even when we fail to hit the ‘on’ switch. Training ourselves to notice our feelings rather than stuff them down is critical to responding to circumstances, rather than reacting to them.
On a less personal level, when we hear about things being done by our government that rub us wrong, or injustices occurring in our community or neighborhood that shame or disturb us, we have a choice to respond or do nothing, but pretending these happenings don’t have ramifications on our daily lives is sheer nonsense. This kind of behavior not only invalidates any surprise on the horizon when similar events repeat later, but creates a platform for alternative realities that have no basis in truth or integrity. They’re illustrative of Stephen Colbert’s (how I’ll miss him!) ‘truthiness’.
There have been such amazing examples of that this week that it’s worth appreciation for the sheer chutzpah of it all. For example, it’s pretty difficult to turn away from unwanted truth when we hear that the President has signed legislation ending Social Security benefit checks for Nazis.
“Nazis?” you ask? To be sure, and only a handful were ever denaturalized (read: deported, but still receiving government payments), although we took in plenty of them after the war. Look up Operation Paperclip and think of it as the tip of the iceberg. This nation is no stranger to the truthiness concept. So much for our abhorrence of tyranny and torture.
And then there’s the Cuban situation, covered so expertly by Eric in the subscription offering this week. Marco Rubio, Floridian, son of Cuban immigrants and probable presidential candidate, says that the President’s deal with the Castros to launch an end to fifty years of punitive ideological blockade is yet another example of Obama’s “tyranny,” and that he is “… willfully ignorant of the way the world truly works.” Rubio insists that he knows “… the Cuban regime and its true nature better than this president does or anybody in his administration does,” speaking to his hatred of Castro’s political oppression, civil rights violations and continuing allegations of torture.
This is the kind of commentary that makes me throw things at the television screen (happily, my household is littered with soft squeaky pet toys that bounce harmlessly.) Turning to Comedy Central for validation of my insights, I almost always get them.
Jon Stewart, carrying the flag for the daily exposé of hypocrisy alone now, jumped on Rubio’s outrage like a duck on a bug, waving a thick copy of the recently released Torture Report in his hand. Fidel Castro may be all that Rubio imagines him to be but I think it’s safe to say that we can put our homegrown team of Bush/Cheney in his league without a moment’s hesitation — with Marco a foot soldier of their ideology.
And of course there’s the e-mail hack of Sony Pictures that has Hollywood peeking behind its trash bins hoping to spot North Korean assassins. Seth Rogan’s most recent movie, The Interview, is a farce that’s annoyed third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un. This L’il Kim (to me, each of them is a L’il Kim) has carried on the work his forbearers began by systemically terrorizing his people to the point of semi-consciousness. This most recent tantrum over a movie he calls a “declaration of war” belies the fact that the majority of his cowed followers will never see it. In Kim’s kingdom, it’s worth one’s life to try — seriously.
And now that the entertainment industry has had a fit and fallen in it, we may never see The Interview either. Sony — red-faced from leaked e-mails that show some of their executives to be as petty as the rags that cover their news bites — cancelled premiers and pulled the picture entirely when hackers mentioned the dreaded “9/11.”
Scrambling for a replacement in lieu of this anticipated holiday offering, some theatres announced they would show Team America: World Police, a biting, satirical puppet-show movie presentation, North Korea pivotal in its plot, released some years ago by the South Park writing team, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. That idea was quickly nixed by a spooked Paramount Pictures, who want no truck with L’il Kim’s gulags, beheadings and — now — hacking.
While this successfully calls cyber terrorism to our attention, it has reportedly set national security scrambling to find some link to Iran, reported to have hacked into an extensive casino system earlier this year. Clearly, cyber-war is being declared by rogue nation-states as a way to impact powers stronger than themselves, and — like guerilla warfare — this allows a handful of techies to potentially wreak havoc on banking systems, the electrical grid or even nuclear installations. But, knotty as is this challenge, Obama has to handle it carefully, quickly, quietly — and we may never know the totality of his response.
Today the FBI formally accused North Korea of the cyber-crime, with speculation that China’s hands may be dirty as well. No news on Iran, although I’m sure Homeland is digging furiously to make the Neocons happy. And I am extremely pleased to post this strongly-worded commentary from the President, in which he suggests that Sony made a mistake in reacting so quickly:
We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” Obama said. “If somebody’s able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary they don’t like, or news reports they don’t like. Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of someone whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.
It’s interesting that George Clooney, shortly after reports of Sony’s predicament, tried to rally the studios to stand firm against this attack on free speech, but he had no takers. Now the North Korean GOP (Guardians of Peace, go figure!) has told Sony to eliminate all signs of The Interview or more of their sensitive material will be published. Apparently blackmail is working nicely here, with Sony cowering behind the rampant fears that are making it possible for as ridiculous a figure as L’il Kim to be in charge of what Americans can watch on the silver screen.
It’s a pretty sad day when we wimp out on an entertainment blockbuster in order to placate a chubby little dude with a cherub’s face, a bowl haircut, the instincts of a blood-maddened piranha and an opinion of himself to make the Gods roar with laughter. And it’s worth noting that it’s the business class that’s caving today, despite their tough-guy persona and their party line that “these colors don’t run” (ummmm — except in the case of cyber-threat.)
As painful as it is, all this talk of human rights and tyranny comes at a perfect time, doesn’t it? Our world becomes more conflicted by the day, with examples like the siege in Sidney and the Taliban attack on children in Pakistan, in some sick effort to “share the pain.” Yet, with so many examples of not just our national failings, but our own human failings, on parade, any defense of holding the moral high ground rings false facing the facts on the ground. We are not just surrounded by violence, the kind that’s turned viral and systemic, but here in our nation, we approve it:
New polls show that 54% of Americans think torture is OK “sometimes.” And that’s just the Democrats.
There have been more than a hundred school shootings since Sandy Hook, and the NRA is still pretending none of this is about them. Guns and ammo are big sellers this Christmas season.
Missouri now equals Texas in executions, Ohio and Oklahoma falling just behind. Faulty chemical compounds and lowered standards of mental awareness in prisoners notwithstanding, state-approved vengeance is celebrated by those who think killing keeps us safe.
And in one of those divine coincidences so many of us see as messengers from a higher intelligence, Oprah Winfrey’s civil rights movie, Selma, is premiering at a time when the whole world is watching the struggle between black citizens in America and a policing presence that is targeting people of color system-wide, and with prejudice.
We can’t pretend we don’t know all this is going on around us. We can’t “un-know” something, after the fact. Truthiness is still an option, but that’s not just an unwise choice, it’s become obviously neurotic, archaic behavior. So I invite you to feel around within the larger space we all inhabit, here on planet Terra, and tell me if you feel what I feel: we’re in the midst of a major game change.
While it’s hard to dig out the particulars of our current challenges to name as either good or bad, moment by moment — and while this is surely not what we envisioned when we voted for hope and change — even though all the information ain’t in yet, it feels as though we may have finally entered a positive, if painful, period of transition. Energy is moving in a big way.
Remember, we asked for change; all of us, in one way or another. It was provoked by a decade or two of mindless accumulation and nose-to-the-grindstone pursuit of the good life, seemingly gone wrong right after the century turned. Truth be told, some of us began that process of release earlier by years, so we weren’t caught, gob-smacked, when the Supreme Court opened the lid on long-awaited mayhem, a decade to follow that felt like somebody slammed the gear shift in reverse. We’d already seen the cracks in the façade. We’d already charted the astrology that stood in the corridor of our future, awaiting us.
So, as we try not to notice what’s going on in the news this holiday season, let’s at least acknowledge that this is only grist for the mill, grinding slowly; that we don’t know how it’s going to look as it plays out but we’re putting our faith in our higher angels and this process of refinement we find ourselves within.
Let that be our Christmas present to one another, as in being ‘present’ in our lives and in our national consciousness, one moment at a time and with intent to contribute our portion to the process of Shift.
The season offers its own challenges, of course. Those of us who are reduced to painful memories of difficult holidays past, or wonderful ones far behind us, must find that place of peace in which we can hold a vision for a better future while not allowing our baggage to contribute to a miserable present. If we get out of our heads — the seat of judgment — and into our hearts — the seat of the Soul — we can begin to breathe again, and find the expanding joy in these last days of 2014.
One of the stories that remind us how to accomplish that is a Taoist folktale. I’m sure you’ve heard it before:
Once upon a time a farmer let his old, but only, horse go free, deciding the beast deserved its last days of freedom. Neighbors commiserated with his poor fortune in no longer having a horse to pull his plow. His response? “We shall see.”
Several weeks later, the horse, now refreshed, returned to him bringing several wild horses with him. The neighbors were stunned by the mans good fortune, but again he said only, “We shall see.”
Not long afterward, the farmer’s son broke a leg trying to ride one of the unbroken horses. The neighbors were very distressed at this sad turn of events, asking the man how he might accomplish his work, but the farmer only said, “We shall see.”
And not long after that, the local warlord came to the village to conscript the able-bodied to fight in an epic battle. Neither the man nor his son were deemed fit, but most all of the other men and boys were taken into service. The neighbors sympathized with the farmer’s loss of face, reflecting the sad truth that his household capacity had so diminished that he was unable to participate. The farmer simply nodded. He would wait and see.
Soon it was learned that the warlord had been badly beaten, and few of the villagers had survived to return to their families. The farmer and his son were among the few capable of working the land, and as he was able to prosper, he helped all those around him in need. The town folk assumed that he must be very happy at this turn of events, and you know the rest …
We know what the farmer would say about his circumstances: he would acknowledge the same truth we must tell ourselves if we are to put pain behind, if we are to keep our peace in these conflicted times. Circumstances come and go, but the journey leads us forward to that which will refine our understanding and grow our Soul. Our ability to find our own peaceful center of gratitude and contentment does not depend on external changes but on our willingness to touch down lightly on the events of the day, never closing ourselves off from our good.
As A Course In Miracles has it, much as there is peace and war, there is love and fear: if we give the day to love, there can be no fear in it. So here, as the holy days come closer and the Shift of Ages continues to produce a kaleidoscope of changing circumstance, my wish for you this holiday is one of abiding love, of kindness extended and kindness felt.
I offer you Solstice stars and Christmas gingerbread in celebration of the Is, and I want for you the small material gifts that please you and larger ones that include courageous acts of forgiveness and radical acts of love in this splendid season of Light. You are not just loved, this holiday season, you ARE love — the very expression of the Divine Creative in a world eager for your compassionate contribution. Whatever your traditions, old or new, may you catch a glimpse of joy this holiday, keep the spark alive in the months ahead. And lastly, I affirm bright blessings for us all, which — I’m quite sure — we shall see.