…silent night’ the opening words of the hymn that will be sung at the climax of the Christmas mass.
At the end of a year which appears to have been one acceleration of violence, wars, conflicts, polarisation, death, abuse, aggressive rethoric, bullying, scare mongering, terrorism; Christmas seems somewhat confusing this year.
The consequences of the hostile and negative conditions and environments affecting the individuals and their communities, politics, economics, the environment and culture wreaking havoc on our perception of the state of the World. Confusion, worry and sorrow in abundance seem to have replaced hope, kindness and peace, and cause paralysis and increase frustration of feeling increasingly powerless with the only coping mechansim to disengage from it all.
So for Christmas this year, my wish is for a ‘silent night’. A night of rest and recovery for all. A pause from the race of life with all it’s difficulties and highs and lows.
When our mind is full with worry, it keeps us awake. Stress keeps us awake, nightmares make us restless. Yet for our physical and spiritual (mental) well being a good sleep allows to recharge and recover.
Having witnessed much of the suffering of humanity through modern communication and news media this year, I am paralysed by the vividness and assault of imagery of human suffering and disregard for any values of humanity by the purpetrators and those who excuse and whitewash their ideologies- I feel in particuar for the parents and their children in not only Syria but also in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and many parts of Africa, much forgotten yet afflicted by poverty, oppression, corruption, conflict, terror and abuse.
As a mother myself, I can’t even bring myself to try and imagine the fear and worry of a woman to become a mother for her and her child(ren)’s future when finding herself in what must feel like hell on Earth, in any of these regions at her most vulnerable and relient on others care and kindness.
Apart from the violence all around, with no means of santitation, warmth, food and medicine, what strength and where from must a mother and father conjure up to continue to cope existing ?
The parallels of these contemporary experiences to the narrative of the nativity are plenty. A highly pregnant woman and her husband on the move in winter with no shelter, food and warmth, two humans enthralled in the turbulence of their times.
When taking this story out of it’s religous/ Christian context it becomes just another story of human vulnerability and fragility of life, and even though we all understand the desperation of the parents to be and the innkeepers apathy fuelled by their own circumstances, fears and worries, we don’t seem to act any different when we are the eye witnesses of such circumstances, conditions and behaviours.
The story doesn’t end with the birth of the child in a humble stable with only a donkey and an ox as the other wintesses to the miracle of bringing a new life into the World.
It is the beginning of a new journey, a new opportunity, hope for a better future. It is a new glimmer which can only grow into a warmth gving fire if nurtured and protected.
The moment of marveling at the newborn child is one of stillness and silence. There aren’t any words that allow for the ocean of emotions engulfing the parents. A mix of pride, relief, euphoria, but also fear, anxiety, and worry – polar opposites at the same time – the irrational and instinctive overlapping with consciousness – resulting in a momentary experience of life.
The child, the protagonist, blissfully unaware of it’s parents aspirations, wishes, fears and worries, recouperating from his/ her traumatic experience of being born, settling into sleep with not a care in the World, the sleep of innocence.
I wish that we all will have the opportunity to have a rest-a calm and restful sleep, free of worry about harm to us or our loved ones, financial anxieties, worry about our or a loved ones health, upset from abusive and bullying behaviour, stresses from environmental disasters, paranoia from media reports of World politics and economics…, to recharge and renew our motivation for the journey.
I wish that everyone will just for a moment stop and pause, halt what they are doing, clear their mind of all the negative information they are bombarded with day in day out and put themsleves in the narrative of the nativity and reconnect with that energy inside us all that drives and sustains live: care.
Care is giving, a selfless act that puts the well being of the other before ones own advantage. It is what makes quality of life. Placing the worries of the other before ours allows to gain perspective, not only on one’s own problems but much more so on one’s strength and abilities. Receiving care without an exchange of a currency is the greatest gift to give and priceless to the receiver. Our consciousness gives us the ability of free choice, the choice to act in kindness to others and ourselves, especially when challenged to do so.
The rewards are intangible, the action often hard and difficult to the one who provides care, they can’t be measured in quantifiable outcomes, and the effect of care may be small, short lived and unnoticed by others.
But just like the one individual providing the stable for Mary and Josef to rest, a gesture of kindness and selfless care is what defines humanity and its entire beauty and wonder, and is each and every time an affirmation. And we can all experience this affirmation of life. It goes without saying that the more gestures of care through kindness the better the quality for all.
I am convinced that we all have in common the ability to care, so I propose to everyone to be kind and to care, by pausing and listening to the needs of the people around us and the environments we are part of, and to be there for them with no fear. This may be lending a helping hand to an elderly neighbour, treating and talking to the unruly teenager in the street with the intent to gain insight into their perception, making that phone call to someone we know is lonely, doing the washing up, sharing the food instead of throwing it away, clearing the rubbish from the garden or close, visiting friends, relatives, whatever may help the other in any shape or form.
If it means it allows them to have a better nights sleep it’ll also allow oneself to rest in the knowledge to have done a tiny bit to make the World a better place.
To stop all this nihilistic nonsense we currently find ourselves in we only need to ignore the communication of extremist’s armageddon and silence it through acting and expressing the values which drive and sustain our existence; the ability to care, which every moment bares an opportunity to do so.