Holiday Thoughts

miracle mile shops

I apologize for my absence. I have been taking care of my wife who has just had some back surgery. It was very successful but she has to take it easy for a bit. So I have been cook, bottle-washer, chauffeur, bedmaker and more for a couple of weeks. We are taking long walks everyday—the recommended therapy for her surgery, and not too bad for my health as well. I will be posting irregularly until after the New Year, but then plan to resume a sort of regular schedule.

The holiday season is at heart a celebration of miracles. For me, Hanukkah is based on the miracle of the light that burned for 8 days while the Jewish warriors, who had just retaken the Temple, went in search for oil to replace the profaned supply. The single day’s supply of sacred oil they initially found and used for the lamp miraculously burned for the 8 days it took to press new olive oil. For Christians, it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Even as the world slows down for just an instance to celebrate these miracles, it is hard for me to find their presence. The miracle of Christmas, a solemn time, has become a miracle of our economy. Merchants and manufacturers derive the bulk of their profits from sales focused on the season. As the season approaches and passes, I can sense a collective holding of breath in anticipation of the coming of each year’s miraculous sales—hardly an appropriate incarnation of the Christ child.

The Christian celebration of the birth of their savior is heralded with the shibboleth, “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to men.” While this phrase echoes forth from the churches of the world and is heard over and over again on the airwaves, it is difficult to find it on the same Earth it calls out. The Earth is hardly peaceful. One war has just “officially” ended just as it was “officially begun without the Constitutional requisite of a declaration, but peace remains fleeting in the Middle East, Africa, Korea, and elsewhere.

And for goodwill, one just can listen to the political talk of the moment and notice its nearly complete absence. To listen to the speeches, ads and phony debates, you would think all the candidates are liars, rogues and worse. The name calling and slander are hardly signs of goodwill. Political talk should exemplify the moral stature of a nation. The contrast between the idea of the miracle of Christmas and the miracle of the birth of this nation could hardly be starker. It is even more ironic because much of the current talk carries “Christian” themes. The Occupy events have called attention to the historic levels of inequality that now characterize our society in America. I can’t think of a better indicator of the absence of goodwill than this one.

Somehow, we have to find a better way to cure our economic woes besides profaning the spirit of Christmas and Hanukkah. I think it would be better to declare a national Shopping Day (if we really must for the economy’s sake) sometime in the middle of the year or maybe around the time people return from their summer vacations. The right answer for sustainability is, of course, stop all this hyper-consumption. We could require that everyone’s fiscal years begin on July 1. Then we might be able to celebrate these winter holidays with respect for their foundations of miracles, love, peace, and goodwill.

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