Another holiday season is behind us.
As I reflect on mine, I get a strong sense that holidays can be seen as a sort of benchmark. We tend to remember certain traditions and how they played out throughout the years.
On needles and pins
Take the Christmas tree, for example. Let’s face it, there’s nothing that can bring out the worst in any of us than the tree. Remember the year that the kids knocked it over? Or, the year that the cat tore all of the ornaments off of the bottom tiers? Or the year that your beloved brought home a tree that made Charlie Brown’s look like it belonged in Macy’s rotunda?
As I was putting up my tree this year, I had a good laugh about all of those (and more) “disasters.” But, moreover, I remembered how I had responded to each of them. And, quite frankly, some of those responses could’ve been a whole lot more compassionate. Some responses (reactions more like it), now seem so embarrassing.
As I sat and admired my tree this year, I reflected on how much better I’ve gotten at dealing with all of the mishaps that go along with getting the tree in and up. I see that I’ve achieved a modicum of psycho-social growth. I am increasingly able to let go of my unconscious attachments to perfection and simply enjoy my lopsided tree.
And, when it fell over as I was trying to get it in the stand this year, I found myself laughing. Some years ago, that would have had me in a tizzy.
Egg shells are for the compost heap
I also recognized that this measure of growth came at the expense of having made some really important, conscious lifestyle choices.
I’ve chosen to slow down; to be more aware of my impact on others and the planet; and to not necessarily do what I want to do, but what I need to do. I’ve also become decidedly more committed to simplicity and to finding satisfaction in the seemingly “little things” of life. And, I’ve gotten on board with the re-localization effort through which I experience community — instead of social alienation.
The one-to-many story complicates things
As I reflected on these changes in my life, the Sandy Hook incident was on my mind. Like most Americans, I found myself scratching my head and wondering what had caused the horrific event.
It’s too easy to blame it on guns, mental illness, television, video games, drugs, bullying, poor parenting or…a host of other things. While any number of these things might be implicated, none of them, in and of themselves, is the whole story.
The bigger picture is the story of a culture run amok: a society stuck in consumerism, frenetic lifestyles, social alienation, loss of meaningful community, materialism, lack of a vital, alive spirituality and bereft of functional familial networks.
As Katherine S. Newman (James B. Knapp Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University) points out,
Though shooters are often intelligent, high-performing students, their peers tend to see them as unattractive losers, weak and unmanly. In a school culture that values sports prowess over academic accomplishment, they face rejection. They are rarely loners, but tend instead to be failed joiners, and their daily social experience is full of friction.
As without so within, and vice versa
James Howard Kunstler, likewise, urges us to,
Look around at the squalid mess that America has made of its own terrain: the endless wastelands of free parking and slumping strip malls, the wilderness of tract housing subdivisions, the cities left cored, rotting, and stinking in the fall drizzle, the countless redundant roadways.
He goes on to remind us to “take a good hard look at the depressing and disgraceful industrial boxes that school is conducted in, these euphemistically-named ‘facilities.’”
Strong words from Kunstler chide that,
We live in physical surroundings that are the perfect growth medium for serial killers, mass murderers, psychopaths with no feeling, and sado-masochists preoccupied only with the ritual orchestration of their own shame and guilt in the service of inflicting pain.
Here’s looking at you and me, kid
Our resolution for this New Year could be to help build vitalized, resilient communities in which all people could feel valued, honored and respected; where people could feel satisfied with being “just as they are;” where neighbors could be friends; where both young and old commingle; and where differences could be set aside in deference of the greater good.
And with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, a little love couldn’t hurt either. This would be a satisfying benchmark to measure.
–Sherry L. Ackerman, PhD., Transition Voice