Welcome to Brothers and Sisters, the weekly meetup for prayer* and community at Daily Kos. We put an asterisk on pray* to acknowledge that not everyone uses conventional religious language, but may want to share joys and concerns, or simply take solace in a meditative atmosphere. Anyone who comes in the spirit of mutual respect, warmth and healing is welcome.
Christmas has always been a Big Deal in my family; I think perhaps the actual form of Christianity in which I was raised is perhaps less Catholicism than Christmasism. This is of course not unique, as Christmas is compelling to every Christian. As is Christmas music, which I love like Life itself. This diary is full of music, but it's more music that's about Christmas, rather than Christmas music. There is plenty of that going on, perhaps on your 'puter right now as you're reading. If so, hit Pause on that joy for now, because that will come from this. This Day After Solstice diary says that Christmas--and every other Northern Hemisphere religious winter feast & fest that lights lights--is, deep down, about facing Winter: facing Cold And Darkness.
While we have done much to shape our world, the world still shapes us: in the present, and in the collective memory of our past experience of a world much more likely to kill us in Winter for almost all of our time here. The primary experience of Winter for most of us First World urban blog readers is at worst an inconvenient one, not a potentially lethal one. Yet some of us know or are aware of someone who is or has been at risk due to unemployment & resulting lack of heat, food, or shelter. Maybe we know someone hurt or lost in a winter weather accident. Maybe we have been that person shivering in a house without heat, or in a shelter, or on the street. So take a moment to step from that reality you know, & remember that mere hundreds years ago, the majority of us were that person.
In recent history, these were our primary considerations come the autumn Dark: How did the year's harvest go? How many cattle/sheep/pigs did we raise? Can we feed any of them overwinter, or must we slaughter them all now & preserve the meat? What's going to happen to us this winter? Will it be endurable? For whom?
Now think back further, a couple thousand years. Ten thousand. A hundred thousand.
Where are the animals? Why are our hunts failing? Who will make it? Have the gods turned on us?
How can hope for the future endure under such circumstances? There had to have been those who saw how. There had to have been some act of spirit directly challenging that which we acknowledged we could not control. By creating fire & huddling together to give each other at the very least the gift of companionship, creating physical & emotional warmth. Today, we recreate in a memorializing way the ancient, desperate need for Light in any & all manifestation with a dedication to joyful displays of multicolored lights & glittering decorations that themselves evolved over time, as we created ever more ways to survive Winter, and the resulting myriad traditions unfolding from those ways & that wisdom. Winter didn't change, but We did. We sang right at it.
The Universe is, as far as we can tell, a near-infinite Winter, one that comes to visit us on our little planet in the places where the sun don't shine quite enough. Even with Solstice, the coldest month is yet ahead; many days putting many at risk are still coming upon the heels of the celebration of the very beginning of the return of the Sun. Space is Sun-swallowing, incomprehensibly Cold Darkness. From one perspective, this season can be seen statistically as an inescapable, primary Truth of things. But clearly, that's not the part that matters the most, just because there's more of it. In it, from it, we stars, we planets, we microbes, we vertebrates have somehow managed to get ourselves born & survive a situation that in the aforementioned perspective is totally brutal. Think back as many millions of years as you can:
Here we are, We are Lights: we by our nature constitute a rejection of icy entropy's claim to sole Truth. We grow, we evolve, we create radiance in myriad ways; like stars & planets, we burn. Making lights in Winter is an astoundingly Self-Universe affirming act, really! We might, for example, put a BALL OF FUSION FIRE atop a TREE THAT DOESN'T WITHER and not even think too hard about how that represents the story of a Nazarean who spoke of the Divine. Regardless of the Church's motives, they do indeed represent each other well! In our celebration, We don't pretend Winter doesn't exist, we don't try to stop it from coming, we don't bargain with it (er... whoops, sometimes we do); we light the place up to celebrate the Light from which we all come, can see within others when we allow ourselves to do so, & to which we may in some way return when icy Entropy takes our bodies at last.
We say to the Universal Winter, "We Exist, and We Rejoice in Your Darkness!"
There's no one more openly irreverent than a lover. He, or she,
jumps up on the scale opposite eternity
and claims to balance it.
And no one more secretly reverent.