Sunday, December 23, 2012

It's Christmas Time...

"I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas
That's what we get here in BC
With the lawns aglisten
And the children listen
To carols sung within the rain..."

Yup. It's that time of year again, and this year I have a special treat: an iPad. my dear friend, Robert, is out of town visiting family and friends out east and his partner loaned this iPad to test and use while they are gone. So here I am, sitting in a Serious Coffee (way better than Starbucks), sipping an eggnog latte while waiting for the snow tires to be put on the car, testing and using this little device.

(Note: I haven't been able to get this blog from my iPad to either the internet or my computer, which is so frustrating, so I've finally given up and am re-typing this whole fracking thing from scratch.) (I think "fracking" is the most appropriate term for the new method of extracting oil. Don't you?)

But now the perennialquestion comes up: what do I write about?

Well, the first that comes to mind is to write about the use of an iPad versus a pen. I can't believe that I've never written about it before, but it's true: I prefer to write with a pen, as opposed to an iPad, or even a laptop computer like I usually use. (Present note: You don't have to worry about re-writing the entire thing just because your paper won't connect with another piece of paper.) There is something more personal, more intimate (and less frustrating) about using a pen and paper.

One of my joys in life has been to get really high quality handmade paper and write letters to people with it, using a very nice pen with appropriately high quality ink. There is something special about the way the ink flows out from such a pen and dances its way across the sheet, the way it gets absorbed into the fibres (cool, the iPad asked me if I wanted to spell this term the Canadian way) (I have to admit, a pen wouldn't do that, so one point for the iPad) (but still a few against it), akin to the way the words can get absorbed by the soul reading them. A good quality paper draws the ink into itself, holding it tight within its breast. A lower quality paper, well, it's like the ink just flows out, dissipating itself as if in water, diluting, sloshing its tendrils of ebon as far as they can go without ever really demonstrating their inherent or potential strength. Yeah, there is something beautiful about writing with a good pen and paper, and I just don't get the same feeling when I type. Sorry, technophiles, but I don't.

You see, dear Reader, I could write about this all day long, drawing from all sorts of quotes from the Writings about the use of the word "pen", from its "shrill voice" and on to all the other qualities that the Blessed Beauty uses in His Writings.

But I won't. Not today.

Today I want to write about Christmas, and my personal reaction to it.

When looking at such a holiday, such a holy day, we are actually looking at a number of different things. First there is the cultural celebration of it, at least here in Canada, and in the US where I grew up. You may have expected me to begin with the holy and sacred aspect of such a day, but really, here it is secondary. It has become primarily a cultural thing. And that, I believe, is a problem.

Perhaps it is the root of most of the problems with it.


Well, I think, and remember this is only my personal opinion and nothing official, that it should be first and foremost a holy day sacred to the memory of the birth of a Manifestation of God. If it were, then our cultural approach would be significantly different and a lot of the issues surrounding it would just fall away.

(Wow. That latte really hits the spot. The think dark bitterness of coffee, combines with the syrupy sweetness of the eggnog flavour, all blended into the creamy smoothness of the latte.) (Sorry. I took a sip and was distracted for a moment.)

But it is not primarily sacred. Instead, it has become a day in which we focus most of our gift-giving gift-receiving materialistic tendencies throughout the year, spending many months and dollars leading up to it, and many months and dollars recovering from it, only to have the whole cycle begin all over again a relatively short time later.

Aside: You know the song "The 12 Days of Christmas"? Did you know that if you were to actually receive that poor bird stuck in a tree on the first day, and return it on Boxing Day, only to receive another partridge alongside two of his turtledove buddies on the second, and another one with two more turtledoves and 3 French hens on the third, and so on and so forth for all 12 days, returning a single gift every day, you would return the final gift on the following Christmas eve? And then, if you still had such a fanatical "true love", you would have a single day off from your gift-returning frenzy before it began all over again on Christmas. (Or 2 days off it were a leap year.) At least with Ayyam-i-Ha you would only get 20 gifts, or 25 in a leap year. Much more moderate.

Where was I?

Oh yes, Christmas.

When I thin of the cultural miasma that has surrounded Christmas, the first thing that comes to mind is the slew of photos of hordes of people presesed up against the glass doors of Walmart, faces pressing against the glass while waiting to get in, looking like an unhealthy cross between a little child smooshing their face against the glass to see how funny a face they can make with their friends, and the zombies trying to get into the mall in George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead". (Come to think of it, that is a very appropriate combination.)

As you are aware, I could go on and on about this aspect of Christmas, but I think you get the point.

The real question I want to address is what I do about Christmas, as a Baha'i. And what do I tell my son, who is currently in grade 2, about Christmas? What do I tell my friends who ask if we celebrate it?

This seems to be such a pressing question in our community that the Spiritual Assembly even had us consult on it during our most recent Feast. We have a few new members in our community (hurray) who are recent declarants, so it seemed like a great topic to talk about.

Now obviously the easy thing to do would be to read those quotes from the Guardian that say that we, as Baha'is and especially as a community, shouldn't celebrate Christmas and try to brush the whole thing aside, but that is not only insulting to those who actually have to face these issues with their families and friends, but it also sidesteps the whole question of learning and growing, and figuring out how to apply the Writings in our daily life (the object of this blog, which is another reason why I am meandering around my way to talking about it.)

Instead of dismissing it, I want to look at it in a bit of depth.

But not today.

Today I am taking my son swimming, and the pool is about to open, so I'll write about my own thoughts on this tomorrow.

For now I will end with asking you how you answer the whole question of Christmas for yourself. How do you respond when others ask you if you celebrate Christmas? What do you tell your family members of they are not Baha'i and want to give you gifts at this time, expecting gifts in return? And how do you explain all this to your children, especially if they are being conditioned by society to expect gifts at this time of the year?

No comments:

Post a Comment