HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 22, 2013 – 12:00am
Christmas comes and goes even if there are many ghosts from Christmases past that linger. The present conditions we are living through this Christmas do not augur well for many families severely affected by Yolanda. But not only direct victims of tragedies suffer during the holidays. There are lonely and poor people everywhere who are not affected by Yolanda, but are equally devastated, materially and spiritually.
For people living in big cities, many things stand in the way of making Christmas a more pleasant experience, and it’s becoming more intense. I have felt this happening for many years. We all know the litany of why Christmas is tiresome: traffic, expenses, obligations, etc.
I have complained a lot about these. I have even dared suggest that perhaps we should celebrate Christmas only every other year to keep it from losing its magic and meaning.
But enough of this whining! I am trying a different approach this year.
I am trying to sing a different tune. Note that I use the word “trying.” But in fact, I have gone farther than that. I have decided that, no matter what, I will have a good Christmas this year.
I’ve realized that all this time, I have been cultivating a negative attitude based on a very shallow, myopic view of what the season really is all about. I have only been looking at Christmas from the practical, social, material point of view where my expectations have not been met. In place of the expected Christmas cheer, I have been stressed, broke and with very little good cheer to pass on.
This year, I am saying yes to Christmas unconditionally. This means I will not complain. I will not allow myself to worry about anything and just concentrate on what Christmas used to mean to me before I had the social life, material status and their concomitant obligations. This year, I will have a more spiritual Christmas.
I will not sweat the expenses. Nor will I complain and curse traffic. Schedule permitting, I will even attend all parties and socials and see friends and people who wish to enjoy the good cheer that goes with the season.
I will also not spend on gifts for friends and family but will donate some money, time and effort to helping the less fortunate.
Spiritual means being in the state beyond the tug and imperatives of materialism, and being in the realm where the Great Unseen Spirit (which is no less real) resides. It can be found where the literal reality ends and the symbolic and mystical begin.
It is that domain where the divide between rich and poor, old and young, local and foreign, etc. hardly means anything, if at all.
A spiritual Christmas is the great opening of oneself to love. We open ourselves to love by both giving and receiving. It is allowing vulnerability to happen when we share what we have, not just with our families and loved ones, but also with people we don’t know or even care about. We willingly say yes, where love dictates us to go.
I would like to push this even further by saying we must also open ourselves to looking at people we do not particularly like, or perhaps even hate, in a new way so that we can see them not as caricatures or demons that we have projected them to be in the past, but as the human beings that they are, like you and me. Let us suspend or even banish the issues that separate us from them. Let us wish them peace, and hope that they are also blessed with the same liberating spirit of giving and receiving that we wish on everyone else.
Years ago, I could easily invoke good cheer and warm Christmas feelings by simply playing Christmas carols, seeing bright lights and Christmas décor, or being with loved ones in a comfortable setting. As much as I still enjoy all of these, I do so now in a different way. I used to think these were spiritual experiences of Christmas because they felt good. But they may have been simply mood-altering exercises to experience the season’s merriment with others. I say that because the “joy” I felt then was induced from the outside.
Spirituality is more than a mood. It is an invocation of the spirit, an awakening to its presence and a decision to stay with it. In this special time in our country where sorrow, death and starvation are widespread, it means the resolve to walk with joy through the darkness, a candle in one hand and relief goods in the other, and bring whatever light and comfort we can to those who are having a sad or even miserable Christmas.
In the Christian faith, it is said that God through His Son was born to live a human life and save us from pain and suffering. Whether or not you are sold on Christian meanings and spirituality, Christmas is asking us to be one with our fellow men and women.
It is asking us to celebrate love and all of humanity unconditionally. The Savior is not just the God-Human Baby Jesus we acknowledge as the center of the season. He is also us when we commit to spread the joy and meaning of giving with no conditions, just like the God who took human form to give of Himself totally.
I sincerely wish for everyone a life-changing Christmas. May you discover a generosity and depth of giving within that you may not have known before. And may the spirit awaken you to Christmas’s eternal joy.