Posted: December 6, 2013 in Uncategorized
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By Peter Stern, Philosophy Faculty

Hark on Dudes and dudettes, you pavement pounding Flaneurs accompanied by all manner of Turtles, small, medium, large, and extra large–Hark on and let no buts, or howevers, or althoughs temper your wish to celebrate the holiday season or let a drowsy emperor fall asleep and skip a holiday TV special. Hark once again letting me remind you, you O So Busy Beavered Turtles, to make your lists and check them twice or thrice as shopping deadlines quickly close in on us Christmas celebrants, all wanting so much to so please our loved ones, colleagues, friends, baby sitters, hair stylists, door men and door women, and dog walkers, who make our quotidian days, born in woe and wonder, a little more lovely, a little more relaxed, a little sweeter, and a little funnier than the hurtling treadmill’s punishing pace otherwise makes mandatory.

For like Turtles and their Flaneurs, treadmills come in all manner of shapes and sizes with their own internally programmed demands on we treadmilled crazed sapiens each year getting older, perhaps a little slower, but also, should the gods deem it just, a bit wiser as well. What this wisdom consists of challenges our mind and at times may confuse our spirits for the wisdom we seek often seems to come in a strange blend of especially banal cliches we’ve heard many times before: Penny wise pound foolish. Better late than never. Honesty’s the best policy. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and also of course the early bird catches the worm. Nice guys finish last. Oh yes, and beware the Ides of March.

OK, but why call this wisdom? These lines seem, instead, boring and commonplace, certainly not the stuff dreams are made of or that will soon bring us dancing cheek to cheek.

And by the way, if the early bird catches the worm, is arriving late really better than simply skipping the event altogether? Something doesn’t quite compute here. Why not simply start fresh the next day? I think this makes more sense to me. But what about you, you ever sweet Turtle, dear dear wrestler of age old conundrums, carrying your heavy carapace day after day after day? What’s your take on all this?

Also please ponder for a moment comparing these wise sayings: nice guys finish last and honesty’s the best policy. Don’t we see a conflict here staring us in the face? If nice guys finish last and nice guys are noted for their honesty, it would seem to follow that honesty isn’t the best policy or in any event honesty shows every indication of guaranteeing you’ll fail.

Well, maybe the point here is for each and every one of us to try and put the pieces of this puzzle together as best we can giving pride of place to this seemingly innocuous sounding word– best. If it’s genuinely the best we can do, then that will have to be good enough.

But perhaps we should drown out our possible confusion and think, instead, how the meaning of the holiday season is tied to the everyday sound of bells made special, however, by the fact our familiar bells are tolling to celebrate the end of the year holidays. We can hear church bells, sleigh bells, a carol singing choir’s hand held bells swinging back and forth, and door bells will which will ring more than usual as our guests arrive and we arrive as guests pushing our families, and friends, and neighbors door bell to wish them a merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

bellsAnd whichever of these bells comes to mind first matters not at all for their message remains spot on: Have a very good holiday season. What makes this season so special–more special I believe than other holidays we celebrate, including Thanksgiving–is that the Christmas season asks us gently and sometimes, perhaps, not so gently to suspend our normal routines and transform ourselves and everything around us for a day, or week, or an entire month.

So start playing your favorite Christmas carols now that December is rolling in and hum them to yourself as you’re waiting in line to pay the nice, harried check out person at Target, or Best Buy, or Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s. Hum a few favorites when you’re at Speedway or BP filling up the tank. And hum a bit when you’re cooking dinner.

For the duration of the holidays, celebrate everything you think worth celebrating. Maybe even a few things you don’t quite think are worth celebrating. Remember that this is the time to give celebrating the benefit of the doubt. Celebrate that you’re alive and well, that your family’s alive and well, that you’re checking off your gift list, maybe buying your kids, or spouse, or significant other, or other family members and friends an extra special gift. Let no opportunity for celebrating get overlooked. The point is that celebrating at Christmas shines a light on our lives, on the many things we do and the significance of those things which in the rush and crush of daily living seldom receive the full recognition they deserve. This experience underscores something I find very odd namely, that celebrating small things and even large major league items often proves amazingly difficult to do.

Why this should be is hard to explain. It’s usually chalked up to the insanely frantic pace of today’s high octane existence but perhaps a better explanation lies in a natural discomfort human beings experience when they’re asked to appreciate– really appreciate– the things they do and the people they do them with. Taking them more or less for granted often seems easier whether the occasion is your kid’s birthday or your own birthday or wedding anniversary.

So remember as the wise song says there’s a time for everything– a time to be happy and a time to be sad, a time for giving and a time for receiving, and a time for celebrating things small and large, with a surge of enthusiasm, a sense of fun, a love for life and a joy born in recognizing the many miracles we create and the many we survey which surround us and miraculously appear created for us.


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