Your Weekly Diversion, Week 50: Merry Christmas to All, However You Mark this Winter Season

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Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Made with Repix (http://repix.it) by Shielagh

Tis the Season and this is Christmas Eve. On Week 50 we are fully diverted from whatever else is going on in the world. Here’s where my thoughts are today. My spiritual life has taken a circuitous route to where I am today.  Raised a Christian with a British godmother who marked my baptism with a Saint Christopher medal and another with the head of Christ, I was baptized at the age of 8 when my agnostic parents felt I needed direction. I kept for many years the beeswax baptismal candle I received that day, much like the one below.

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I attended parochial school and sang in the choir. I even played Mary one year in the Christmas play. When I went off to a prestigious girls’ prep school in New England, we had chapel every morning, singing hymns and reading prayers from the Episcopal liturgy. I love the hymns still today. An enduring favorite of mine is “Jerusalem,” adapted from a poem by William Blake, a hymn we sang every year at special times, standing, singing in unison, with fire and feeling. Here are the words. and the music follows.

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.

The images in that video of the verdant English hills and of Stonehenge, remind us that our early years as humans were unencumbered by formal theology as we know it but had a developing dogma of their own. For many of us, our ancient heritage springs from a Druid and Pagan beginning. For others of us, the spiritual path comes from the Yoruba tradition brought here from Africa by enslaved humans who have suffered and still continue to suffer from that indignity and racial prejudice that still lurks in the US and elsewhere. And elsewhere on the earth, others mark the winter solstice in their own unique ways, or not at all.

I was married at 20 to a rebellious fifth generation Friend in a solemn Philadelphia Quaker meeting, and they don’t incorporate music in their meetings, or didn’t then at any rate. Alas, a few years later I was a single mom looking for something that was missing. Thus I became a Mormon and spent a number of years active in that church, especially loving the music and always singing in the choir. When I saw this video, I decided to share it here. It touched my heart even as I wished they hadn’t felt the need to include the religious bit at the end. It was filled with loving meaning enough as it was. It brings with it the hope that a lost loved one can return one day. May it be so.

In my later years I converted to Judaism and then found the dharma way, the Noble Eightfold Path. and Buddhism is my practice today. I still observe the Jewish Holidays with my husband in our traditional but mostly secular way. And I practice Buddhist meditation daily.

The Wexford Carol we just heard has a rich and storied history. I was vaguely familiar with it, and then I found this sweet rendition by Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss.

Merry Christmas!

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 48

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Graphic from Wandanalu 2012

As the year 2017 draws to a close, it seems to me that many hearts are heavy. As a therapist I’m hearing about family conflicts, holiday stress and strain with shopping, cooking, wrapping, writing and sending, and nostalgia for the “good old days.” There are some other things dragging at our merriment during this holiday season. The so-called middle class tax cut threatens to send the deficit through the roof, only to be dealt with harshly later on. Its popularity with the people as I write is 29 percent. The “me too” movement is rightly shining a light on sexual impropriety in government as well as the corporate world and entertainment industry. As women and men come forward with credible allegations, people are reminded of their own experiences, some long buried or discounted as no big deal. The breast or butt grab, the unwanted sloppy kiss, the innuendo or outright proposition, the rape, each took a toll and haunted the wellbeing of countless among us.

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Edited image from rainforestferry.com

Here in Florida this week we’ve lit the menorah with good friends, and we’ve made and savored our latkes and matzoball soup and stuffed our faces with jelly donut holes and chocolate. During that same evening we followed the Alabama Senate race and stayed up late to learn the results. We’ve shopped for family and one another and sent off our gifts. We’ve bought some holiday cards but haven’t begun to write them yet. We’ve attended a Christmas extravaganza starting outside with falling snow, a living nativity with cooperative infant, two goats and a little horse, carolers, and then an amazing show with 100-voice choir, orchestra, another living nativity with majestic arrival of the Three Kings, and many carols the 1,800 attendees in the audience sang, and ending with everyone singing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah on our feet. The parking lot at this Baptist church was so vast that shuttle trams adorned with holiday lights ferried the elderly, encumbered and infirm to their cars when it all ended. We did truly enjoy it.

This time of year, it behooves us all to remember those less fortunate and do what we can to help. Whether we donate our goods, our money or our time, the need is huge. Yesterday the Guardian published a story that I recommend to everyone, difficult though it is to read and to view some of the photos. Many may be unaware that some 40 million Americans live in poverty in 2017. It is such a problem that the UN sent a reporteur to see the challenges and report back.

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Photo courtesy of The Guardian

The city of San Fransciso has many homeless people living on their streets, but there’s a bright spot in their picture, Saint Boniface Church. The church is open daily for homeless people to sleep safely in the rear pews, even while Mass is being celebrated in the front of the church, a living example of the gospel of ministering to the poor. Social workers and homeless advocates also make themselves available to help connect the homeless with urgently needed services.

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There is reason to hope today, and we mustn’t let the magnitude of the world’s problems drag us down. Everyone can help make the world a better place, each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Next month we will start as volunteers at our local animal shelter. Bloom where you are planted!

 

Namasté

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