At our elementary school’s Holiday Concert, one kindergartener was completely dressed in a Santa Suit! I couldn’t resist looking totally shocked and saying to him, “Omigosh, I didn’t realize Santa was going to be here!”
He smiled at me, placed his hands on his little padded belly and said quite seriously, “Mr. Boomsma, what would you like for Christmas?” A few hours later I realized how important his question was.
I was at a different event and was introduced to a Christmas Song I’d never heard before. I’m not sure how I missed this song–it was written in 1974 by Greg Lake as a protest against the commercialization of Christmas. The song has an interesting history, but it has an even more interesting closing line:
“We get the Christmas we deserve…”
That’s something to think about. We are, unfortunately, a culture of fault-finders and that makes us often feel victimized. We complain about how commercial Christmas has become… object to the costs and the endless attempts at political correctness. We remember fondly the Christmases of yesteryear and whine, “It’s not like it used to be.”
Lake wrote the song in part because, as he described it, “Christmas was a time of family warmth and love. There was a feeling of forgiveness, acceptance. And I do believe in Father Christmas.”
So maybe we need to focus on what we believe in and then ask ourselves “What am I contributing to the season and what do I want from it?” Once we’ve wrapped our heads (and hearts) around that we can create the activities that contribute to that meaning and focus on those. What do you want for Christmas? How are you going to get it?
Christmas isn’t something that happens to us. We get the Christmas we deserve.
You can learn more about the interesting history of this tune on Wikipedia.
The reactions to the recent tragedy in Las Vegas have certainly been varied. Thanks in a large part to the ongoing media coverage, it remains a focal point for many. It, therefore, seems fitting to share several thoughts, including this paragraph from a recent J.E.D. Foundation blog post:
At a time like this, the simple things will help – don’t hold feelings in, talk to friends, family and loved ones. Turn off the TV, computer, and phone. Get up and get out – tragedies can weigh so heavily on us that it makes it hard to move. Take a walk, go to the gym, run errands, spend time with friends, volunteer to help. And lastly, everyone should take care of themselves and those around them – physical health and emotional connectedness can go a long way toward making you feel like yourself again.
During last night’s Suicided Awareness and Prevention Workshop we discussed briefly the potential impact events like this have on children. It is so important to remember they are watching and listening and may be much more aware of news and incidents than we might think at first. If it is difficult for an adult to process the “why” of an incident like this, consider how much more so it may be for young people. This is a time when we should look out for our children.
I published a post from Edutopia (an excellent resource for teachers and parents, by the way) on Mr. Boomsma’s Facebook Page. Entitled “Responding to Tragedy: Resources for Educators and Parents.” When time permits, I will be adding many of those resources to this website.
As a general guideline, I encourage adults to listen and watch for signs that a child is struggling to come to terms with the incident. It is not necessary to “force” a child a think or talk about it, but it is important to be willing to listen and answer questions. You don’t have to have all the answers. Provide reassurance and gently shift the focus to the positives. In children’s terms, “Let’s look for the helpers.”
That’s actually pretty good advice for all of us.
This may not be your style of music… but it is another way to deliver a very important message. “You are not alone.” Don’t politicize it. Watch and listen… see the woman crying and hear messages like “What is a day without night.”
The following post is from the blog Not Otherwise Specified, an ongoing story of recovery from addiction. The blog is written by the daughter of a friend. The blog’s “About” page explains, “Today I have over eight years of recovery in my program of choice. By writing about my experience, I hope to reach others struggling with all types of addiction.” I admire much about her, including her ability to share her insights. This piece on “Love and Wonder” strikes so many chords with me, I simply must share it, along with the suggestion you visit her site and consider subscribing.
I loved technology when I was a kid. In middle school, I entertained myself for hours by teaching myself HTML code and photo manipulation. While the internet ultimately played an integral part in my addiction, it was also a creative outlet and a tool for inspiring positive change. I started my social media campaign, Human Too, in that same spirit of positivity and I feel incredibly blessed to have creative license in my career as a web content manager. However, the drawback of working with social media platforms is that you actually have to use them.
Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t some element of futility in trying to harness social media for benevolent purposes. The part of me that teeters on the edge of needing a tinfoil hat -but I don’t think is too far off the mark – cynically believes that technology is not only a drug contributing to the Achilles’ heel of civilization, but also a means by which the masses can be easily manipulated. That’s some serious 1984 or House of Cards shit, but it’s tough to refute. The difference between me and other cynics is that I still think it’s possible to live a contented and meaningful life in spite of the disillusionment.
When you turn on your TV set or scroll through your newsfeed, it seems as though the world has collectively gone mad. And maybe that’s not far from the truth. The world doesn’t make sense. There is an element of absurdity to the whole concept of human existence. But when you unplug and stop to consider the realm directly outside your window, the picture is likely to stand in stark juxtaposition. Maybe you hear the traffic or the crickets. Maybe you watch your neighbor get the mail or water the garden. Maybe the breeze blows. Maybe someone on the street coughs or waves or speaks indistinctly. And maybe, in that moment, everything is okay. So which version of reality is the most accurate?
If you choose to invest yourself solely in the digital narrative, it’s easy to view the world as an angry, hostile place. And sure, people are angry…but mostly we’re afraid. I can only speak for myself, but my buttons are most easily pushed in terms of my identity as a gay person, a woman, and a police wife. “How will you hurt me? What will you take from me?” These are the questions behind my own personal brand of rage. My fears are immediate and acute and frequently supersede my consideration of my global brothers and sisters. We are all self-preservationists in our anger. We are driven by and united by fear.
All of that is not to say that self-preservation is bad. The instinct to survive is what makes us human. Fear is human. It is merely an observation that we share a common ground.
In a climate saturated with the threat of nuclear war and simmering racial tension, it’s only natural to feel like our existential terror is somehow unique. But millions of people have experienced or are currently experiencing the heaviness of wartime. Millions of people have experienced plagues, famine, natural disaster, genocide, and the collapse of civilization. Millions of people have held their lover and wondered what kind of earth their children were destined to inherit. We have been fearing the end since the beginning. It’s part of the package deal when you occupy this planet.
I used to get very upset by the idea that there is no life after death. I don’t know what I believe anymore, but I think it’s highly likely you simply cease to have consciousness. I believe our energy leaves an imprint on a place. I also believe in the fabric of the Universe – a divine thread connecting all living things – but beyond that, I cannot say for certain. The only reason the uncertainty bothers me now is because I can’t bear the idea of not seeing my wife. I guess if we don’t have consciousness, we don’t know the difference.
These are heavy thoughts. Perhaps you’re thinking: “What’s the point?” And here’s where the cynics and I diverge. The point is that you are conscious in this moment. The point is that you have the ability to love and to be filled with wonder. Our purpose, in my view, is to love and wonder.
Early in my college career, I spent about five minutes as a philosophy major. Looking back on my notes, I found a page that declared “the meaning of life is awe”. If you can maintain your sense of awe, you have unlocked the secret of living. It’s hard to say how that bit of insight came to me, but I have subscribed to the ideology ever since.
Addiction numbs our consciousness. Our drugs of choice block us from feeling love and wonder. We die prematurely.
There’s a reason Buddhists strive to be “awake”. There’s a reason yoga and meditation advocate for the present moment. The “now” is all we have. It is the only time in which we are able to love and be loved. It is the only time we have to consider the profound and miraculous beauty of our delicate existence. The precariousness of our position is what makes it breathtaking.
I don’t think anything needs to “come next” for this flawed and absurd life to be more than enough. We don’t need to do anything for life to have meaning…we need to simply be. I have often sat by the ocean and reflected sadly on the idea that the dead no longer have the capability to inhale the intoxicating air. It is a gift to experience the wonders of this wild earth. I think the real question is whether we receive it or we reject it.
The activity of appreciating the morning light is not just for poets and painters – it’s for humans. If all I do with the rest of my days is exuberantly behold the sunset and love as much as I can, I have achieved the “it” for which mankind toils. If all I do is celebrate wildflowers, a good meal, clinging rain drops, a shy smile, cool summer grass, and all the other remarkable minutiae…it is enough.
I am sober. I am awake. My being vibrates in the truth of the moment.
The cards are stacked and it’s hard to say how the deck will scatter. I don’t know if anything I do will ultimately make a difference. But I know that my being has purpose. I want my voice to be a whisper in the din: “Wake up”. Don’t die without living. Don’t live without meaning.