Friday, December 17, 1999
A Selfish Gift
According to a front page article in Sunday's New York Times, "As incomes of the better-off Americans rise in this age of prosperity, with the stock market and corporate profits booming, charities report that both individuals and companies are donating less to organizations that support the homeless, the young and the hungry than they did in leaner times."
This Saturday and Sunday, Carlisle residents will have the opportunity to show their generosity by contributing to the police department's toy drive for less fortunate families in Lowell.
Buying a toy for a child who would otherwise receive nothing is not only a nice thing to do, it's really quite fun, particularly if you're finding yourself bogged down in locating that perfect something for that special someone who seems to have everything and need nothing. Try heading down the toy aisle, thinking like a kid and picking out a fun toy, an attractive set of art supplies or maybe an adorable stuffed animal. That momentary return to younger years is like a breath of fresh air, and then there is that warm feeling of knowing that someone else will appreciate that toy even more than you do.
So, don't miss out on the fun, pick out a good toy, head down to the station on December 18 or 19 and prove those New Yorkers wrong.
Dragons and Christmas
Our three-year-old grandchild, Stefanie, stayed with us a few hours one morning before going to day care. She was watching Dragon Tales on TV. I watched a few moments. "Good grief," I said, "friendly dragons. I remember when dragons." "Hush!" said Trudi. "She likes this program."
I went off grumbling about politically correct dragons, and how fairy tales used to be filled with blood and gore, and proper dragons ate maidens for lunch after roasting rescuing knights in their armor by belching flame. Fairy tales, one theory goes, were meant to prepare children for real life by exposing them to the less pleasant possibilities of living: wicked parents, wild beasts, wolves in sheep's clothing.
Politically correct dragons do not ruin some sacrosanct description of those mythical beasts. My complaint is the trend towards pasteurizing and homogenizing our whole culture.
Christmas (this is not limited to Christian holy days, but this is about Christmas) ends up being about decorations and presents instead of about life and death and epiphanies. Life in that Christmas is about birth and new life and hope. Death in that Christmas is a celebration of the fullness of life in the recognition that what is born also dies (the gift of Myrrh is symbolic of this, being used to prepare bodies for burial).
Epiphanies are appearances of God: the breaking through of the eternal into the daily; the opening of our hearts and minds and souls to the realization that we are part of the great oneness of life and universe. Epiphanies are not confined to any particular belief system or reserved for any specially trained group of people. Joan of Arc had epiphanies. Einstein had an epiphany when he discovered E equals M times C squared. Some of us think of our near-death experiences as epiphanies having experienced the tunnel of light. The wonderful classic mystical experiences seem to us to be epiphaniesthe sense of the presence of the Divine, the sensation of merging into a greater reality, the awesome awareness of our oneness with all that is around us. The beauty of epiphanies is that they never deny the present reality. They do not cure pain (miracles are a different subject), they help us live with the pain. They help us confront our dragons.
Epiphanies don't sell candy or (looking at the announcement of a "super Saturday sale") "calming pools" complete "with the natural sound of water gently flowing over rocks." For commercial and cultural reasons, Christmas is made to be about things rather than at-one-ment with the universe.
Karl Marx, bless his atheist heart, wrote that religion is "the heart of a heartless world." Epiphanies are often described in terms of lightstars, tunnels of light, halos. On Touched by an Angel, the angels glow in the dark when they reveal themselves. Religious art often uses rays of light to accent persons or events. Epiphanies and the memory and celebration of epiphanies are light in a lightless world.
In the midst of the preparations and celebrations, at-one-ment is there. Turn to the light, feel the pulse of life. Have a blessed and holy Christmas, and, whatever your tradition, may your holy days be graced with touches of eternity.
The last Forum column of the year is traditionally written by one of Carlisle's clergymen. Rev. Eugene Widrick is the minister of the First Religious Society.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito