It’s the Christmas season. Whether you lean more towards spiritual traditions or secular ones – or both – it’s the time when songs and greeting cards ring out with heartwarming messages of Peace, Joy, Love, and Goodwill towards all. Hmm. I’m sorry to say this – very sad, indeed – but surely I’m not the only one thinking that these are pretty hollow words this year. What peace? What joy? Within families, one can hope. Within communities, definitely possible. But the world at large doesn’t even seem to be pretending to be working towards peace and joy at the moment. The leader of the most powerful country in the world has made it pretty darn clear that he doesn’t care anything about such sentiments. If we had any doubts at all we just had to wait for this past week to transpire. Meanwhile, Britain is experiencing its own version of chaos. A world order based on cooperation, compassion, and compromise seems to be unraveling.
So what can an individual do to give renewed credibility to these important messages of peace, love, joy, and goodwill to all? We can only do so much, but we can do some things. We can start by nurturing ourselves. We can work harder to find ways to concentrate on positive activities instead of dwelling on (valid) reasons for despair. We can reach out to others in our community to spread positive and supportive thoughts and deeds. [And when it comes time to vote, we can ask the right questions and then vote for the parties whose policies encourage peace on earth, goodwill towards all.]
One of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs (and I have several) speaks powerfully to the challenges we currently face. These lyrics are the refrain from his 1992 song, “Anthem”; in Cohen’s own compelling way he reminds us that there is always hope in the darkness:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
And a recent blog post by Joyce Hopewell, in her blog Eyes in the back of my Head, offers some very good advice for how each of us can contribute to letting the light back in:
“So here are some suggestions of what you and I could do at this time of year to bring light into our lives, and the lives of others around us:
- Light a candle – simple and easy – remember the saying that it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
- Call a friend – reconnect with someone you’ve not been in touch with for a while.
- Perform a random act of kindness – just do it!
- Take a risk and smile at strangers as you walk down the street – this one is very rewarding.
- Say hello to someone you don’t know – you could follow up the smile with this one.
- Glow with joy and a warmth of spirit…and it will come back to you in spades.
And may the warmth of friendship be wrapped around you at this time of year.”
With these thoughts in mind, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. My desire for all of us is that by this time next year – somehow, some way – the seasonal wishes of Peace, Joy, Love, and Goodwill to all will not seem as hollow as they do at this moment. May our hope be restored.