HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 25, 2016 – 12:00am
If you have lived long enough, you will know that as you get older, things, people and events can change their meaning, relevance and connection to you.
They assume different values at various stages in your life.You may have believed that a character named Santa was giving you your gifts as a child only to find out later that it wasn’t true.
That’s the way things are. We awaken to new truths all the time.In my own life, Christmas has had many meanings and I have gone through different moods and feelings about it.
Today, I would like to share what Christmas 2016 feels like for me right now.It is certainly not a celebration of materialism.
I have hardly bought gifts. I just don’t feel it is what I need to do right now. Another material acquisition will not save us from the hell we are in at the moment.
While I attended parties, I looked forward to talking to people and sharing stories more than the drinking and the eating. Reaching out and getting to know people more intimately is far more enriching than the usual shared drunkenness and stupor.
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Amid the dreary and dreadful goings-on in the world right now, Christmas to me feels like a happy and safe place. It seems like the only real thing I can believe in. The world is in a mess. There is no doubt about that. If you look through the lens of history, it seems that the world is headed for some big cataclysm and tragedy.
This celebration of an event that occurred more than 2,000 years ago seems to be our only hope to console our tired and weary spirits and re-imagine a different, more humane future.
This year, I have contemplated more on the spiritual aspect of Christmas. Sure, it is great being with family, receiving gifts and being greeted with good cheer wherever I go.
But I have delved into Christmas’ deeper dimensions and mysteries more than at any time in my life. And the things I have realized are quite unfathomable.The birth of Jesus with its attendant narratives and meanings has actually riveted and inspired mankind for two millennia.
It has shaped a big part of civilization as we know it, and yet its fruition or goal has not been achieved. We are far from experiencing the peace on earth that was promised and we have not been sharing enough goodwill to all mankind.
This year, I pondered more than ever the paradoxes of Christmas: how a child born without any means was tasked to save all of mankind.
And that the spirit of Bethlehem is meant to be a continuing force that opens us to more than what the world has to offer, and that, in a sense, it tells us to reject the values the material world lives by. I also realized the profound irony of how much God wanted to be man and how much man has always dreamed of being God.
It is fascinating and mysterious why the infinite wants to experience what it is like to be finite, while the temporal wants a shot at eternity. I went whole hog in anticipation of Christmas this year. I set up the Belen, went to Mass as often as I could, restarted meditating and looked for the guiding star to guide me through this crazy time. I fought cynicism and hopelessness and I embraced the promise of peace and love.
I know there will always be suffering in the world. But it is our choice if we want a meaningful suffering that liberates, or a senseless, needless one that leaves us bitter and cold.
In the days heading to Christmas, I purposely went out of my way to do good as I saw it, and even gave up a few things to help others. To me it was less of “suffering” and more of a preparation for a greater experience of the spiritual implications of Christ’s birth.
Now, how could someone like me who has actually been ranting against Christmas for the past several years suddenly become such a big fan? Simple. I went back to basics.
I remembered how a classmate, during a discussion about religion, told me that when things got too complicated, he often went back to the catechism he learned in prep school.
He applies these lessons in his life with the same innocence with which he understood them then. From my family to yours, may you have a Merry Christmas.