What Really Matters [The Inner Holidays]

Hola mi Gente…

If you’re sad or stressed do some service. It’s the greatest antidepressant known to humankind…

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The Inner Holidays

The holiest of all holidays are those… Kept by ourselves in silence and apart… The secret anniversaries of the heart. — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


The holidays are an opportunity for us to set aside our work and routines — to give ourselves permission to put away, for the moment, our problems, and burdens. They are a time for joining with others in the celebration of life. However, this is not an easy thing to do. Maybe together we can learn from each other how to do it.

Perhaps our holidays are clouded by sad and painful memories of the past. We miss loved ones who have passed on, or with whom we have cut ties with, or with whom we have lost contact. For me, the holidays are a mixed bag because they are reminders of my past excesses. I have come to understand that, if anything, the holidays are often more about excesses rather than celebrations of life. There is the excess of consumption, of giving in to attachments whether in the form of food or material things.

This emphasis — this obsession on getting and giving — can become quite stressful: our lives are invaded by a mob mentality that can be, well… literally murderous. And, of course, mindlessness is encouraged everywhere, threatening to destroy all that we hold precious. In addition, the essential message of Christianity (at least as I see it, and I don’t consider myself a “Christian”) is somehow lost in the shuffle of commercialism. It’s not about peace and goodwill; it’s really about — well, at this point in time who really knows? The holidays can present an even greater sadness for those of us who may be experiencing financial difficulties, adding to the holiday stress. Fact is that the glitter of the holidays is oftentimes an elaborate ornamental disguise for quiet despair.

It’s almost obscene.

What to do? Well, I have long ago learned that the holidays don’t have to be perfect. Sure, there is all this commercial crap diluting what is in reality a beautiful message, but perhaps together we can make that effort to turn within and share, not so much what can be measured materially, but the piece of ourselves that connects. A small gesture, a smile, an attempt to reach out, even a small acknowledgment can be ten times more powerful than the latest gadget. It’s all within our grasp. A few years back, for example, a former colleague and I left anonymous notes and simple gifts of candies in the office mailboxes. Nothing extravagant, merely gentle reminders to people that they are valued for who they are. Imagine if you found the following note on your windshield one cold morning:

You’re receiving this note simply because you’re beautiful as you are, and while I don’t know you, I believe that as human beings we all have the potential to commit acts of kindness, works of beauty, and that we all have the potential to change lives for the better. This note is a reminder of the beauty and power you possess.

Yeah, I realize that perhaps your carefully cultivated, been-there-done-that coolness would immediately ridicule the note and maybe it wouldn’t make much of a difference, but don’t tell me such a note wouldn’t touch you in a way your hard-won cynicism forces you to deny. Somewhere inside of you, there’s a place that would appreciate the note, corny as it might seem. Try it some day: leave such a message for a stranger, friend, or colleague, watch their reactions…

Lost in all this insanity and apathy, is the genuine Christian message is that a man — really an ordinary man, a mere laborer — who never owned his own home, who never wrote a book, or invented anything — a poor man born of a single homeless mother, in fact, was able to change the world with a message of love. Now, that’s some shit right there.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…


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