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Christmas thoughts
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-12-25 08:43:40
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It feels strange that it came to me to write a few words for Christmas day. I never felt shy for my believes and I find it easier to believe that there is intelligent life in Mars, UFOs in my backyard and trolls in the Finnish forests than believing that there is god! But then again this is Christmas and please don’t laugh but …I really believe in the Christmas spirit.

Let me be clear, beyond all the philosophical “ifs” and “buts” there is a message in Christmas that should touch all of us believers or not, an ecumenical message beyond religions, faiths and ideas; the birth! The birth, the hope, the new day, the light in the end of the tunnel. And this message is not only ecumenical, not only beyond place but it is also beyond time, always contemporary. The poor didn’t suddenly appear the last few years, the homeless and the unjust didn’t show the last few centuries. They always were here.

Unfortunately from the very beginnings of human history everything is painted with blood. Wars, suffering and death has been all the way. Kids die every single day and not only in Africa as our stereotypes want us to believe, they die in Asia, they die in Australia, in South America, in Europe and North America; kids die in the centre of Paris and in the centre of New York. Kids don’t die only from natural causes; kids die because they hungry, because they have been tortured because they have been murdered, kids die because nobody cared.

30,000 kids die every single day somewhere in this world! While reading this last paragraph 21 kids died somewhere in this world, that’s how long it takes. And Christmas are here to remind us, to awake us, to motivate us to do something. We live in a world full of Scrooges just like Dickens’ Christmas Story hero and a world that need love this extra drop of love.

I believe in the Christmas spirit because it reminds me that somewhere perhaps very deep inside me I am a kid, I still have dreams and I haven’t let cynicism overwhelm me; I still have hopes that something can change and that it might be me who can make – however small – the difference. I believe in the Christmas spirit because beyond religion and believes softens us even for a day, helps us to see better and feel better the world that surrounds us. I believe in the Christmas spirit because it gives us the chance to look better in the kids’ eyes. I believe in the Christmas spirit because of the message of hope it carries.


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Emanuel Paparella2009-12-25 10:58:41
The above musings confirm, for me at least, that belief in the Christmas spirit is predicated on another belief: a hope in a more just and equitable world. Beyond philosophical elucidations, it is that kind of hope and aspiration that, for some at least, gives an inkling and a suspicion that a God may exist after all, even if it cannot be proven scientifically. Some of the above mentioned scientists would remind us that hope is not wishful thinking and one ought to be a realist not a child who believe in Santa and confront bravely the cosmic situation as it is aside from wishful thinking and one’s heat’s puzzling ideals and aspirations. But there is something strange going on which most of those types of scientists never thinks about and it is this: the thought of a better world, just as the thought of science, and the desire for universal justice when the lion shall lie down with the lambe, would not even arise in the human heart and mind were it not at least a possibility buttressing an aspiration. Science would not arise without an assumption never discussed: that the mind can search for and find truth. There is plenty of food for thought there echoing Pascal’s famous wager. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2009-12-25 11:04:39
Indeed. were universal justice an utter impossibility it would not arise at all not even as a phantasy, and we would tragically be living in a world of hardened Machiavellian realists cynically embracing nihilism. For if the universe came out of nothing and made itself in all its complexity, and remains predicated on nothing it makes absolutely no difference that eventually it will return to nothing or that humankind will commit suicide as it can and as its inherent freedom makes possible, and nobody will shed any tears over its passing and self-induced demise. The most cynical among us, after declaring God dead with Nietzsche’s madman (albeit not Nietzsche, for he was on the contrary obsessed with the idea of God…knowing that He/She is not a mere philosophical idea, a panacea of sort that one takes as an aspirin as needed but a person requiring a personal relationship) have been going around for a while now prophesying “good riddance, the sooner the better.” You are right there Thanos, for that kind of toxic nihilistic poison which underpins not only wishful thinking but despair also (what Kierkegaard call “sickness unto death), only the true Christmas spirit and al it implies will do.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A NEW YEAR FILLED WITH JUSTICE AND LOVE; that is to say "the conspiracy of hope."

Emanuel Paparella2009-12-25 11:08:55
To correct: lamb.

And a final thought: the challenge is to live with the Christmas spirit not only on Christmas day but every day.

ap2009-12-25 23:45:53
Mr. Paparella, the fact that I can think that a lion is a reindeer, NY city floats in the air and rain has a golden colour doesn't mean that possibility is close to happen, fortunately or unfortunately. If people are aware of this and, mostly, if they were all willing to change something, that would be nice. But most of them aren't - they just enter the 'hope with no substance' mode which feeds the impossible dreams, many times to compensate for their frustrating daily lives, of the same kind which makes many ladies believe soap operas and pink press stories. So we have to start from there - how can a minority do something about a human nature which is, in its essence and majority, highly competitive, individualistic, selfish, liar, traitor, cruel and deceiving, while declaring at the same time that it is full of hope for the future? That's the challenge, and that's not a small one, I would say.
I don't think there should be a timing for goodness and faith, a schedule for charity, a programmed way to relieve our collective consciousness. Most of the times, tomorrow everybody will forget everybody, villainy, abuse, competition, advantage by stepping on each others' feelings and souls, silence and distorted forms of communication will take place. Marketing will do its best to clean most behaviors and turn everything into socially acceptable phenomena. Until next Christmas... when many people will again pretend they are what they really aren't during the rest of the year. That's a sweet illusion, but this kind of bipolarity is very scary for me. It shows how much apart from their true selves/actions many people are. It would produce some material for an article on alienation and modern social myths, I think.

ap2009-12-25 23:58:04
Maybe it is just me, but I don't feel identified with many of these myths: Christmas for Christmas sake, family for family's sake, monogamic marriages and their values, a man plus a woman sanctified in God, blessed with many children (because that's what society expects from them - live, marry, reproduce, get a bigger belly and accommodate yourself) and living happily ever after, year after year celebrating the blessings of Chistmas with their close relatives and their adorable offspring delighted among hills of gifts, turkey, christmas deserts or whatever. It all sounds like a bad 50's commercial! Real life is not like that - better or worst, it is not as boring!!

ap2009-12-26 00:09:13
ps - sorry, it also reminds me of the dictatorship's 'sanctified family' advertisements and incentives - neighbourhoods filled with perfect heterosexual, monogamic, male-dominated families and mothers with a 'natural instinct' to be mothers, all with children, all very artificially happy and celebrating Christmas blessed by God.

Emanuel Paparella2009-12-26 02:09:41
Ms. AP, indeed, as mentioned in my comment, there is a great difference between hope and wishful thinking and a reliable criterion is the amount of sacrifice that goes into realizing hopes and ideals. Wishful thinking is much more sentimentally melodramatic, requires less effort and commitment and produces illusions wrapped in delusions even when buttressed by activism, especilly when it is mindless and shallow. On the contrary, hope and love usually have sacrifice and a cross on the horizon, as well as a hoped for moment of resurrection.

ap2009-12-26 03:48:41
Yes, in fact, you may call it wishful thinking - but I wouldn't even call it that, if it's not honest nor consistent (i.e. lasting beyond the Christmas week).
On the other hand, I don't see great advantages in constantly praising self-sacrifice. Work is one thing, sacrifice another - and work can be pleasurable rather than sacrificial (even when it's hard work). Reward or resurrection is not always available, so you'll better enjoy the path, as the destiny is uncertain.

Emanuel Paparella2009-12-26 05:25:08
Indeed, the train may have no destination but it's the only train we seem to have as an alternative to nihilism and suicide as a race, and to jump off it in order to feel different or special may be clever by half but not very wise. Art can help on the journey and make even hard work pleasureable but with no sacrifice there is no tragedy and no heroes either, I am afraid.

One form of art that I'd reccomend is dancing which brings down to earth, incarnates in the body so to speak, abstract ideas. It may be the meaning of the incarnation as a Francis of Assisi intuited. One such intuitive artistic dancing masterpiece is Bill T. Jones': "'Fondly we hope; ardently we pray." Worth checking it out.

ap2009-12-26 06:02:51
'with no sacrifice there is no tragedy and no heroes either'? - I don't understand... who's wanting to be a tragedy character or a heroe here? Not me...but thanks.
Hard work should be pleasureable if you (can) love what you do, it doesn't matter if what you do is art or not (and art should not be faced as a 'prosthetic addition' to colour one's life either...).

Emanuel Paparella2009-12-26 13:17:05
A hint: "Fondly we hope, ardently we pray" are words of Abraham Lincoln. I can pretty much guarantee that experiencing those words as incarnated in dance by Bill T. Jones will not be a boring experience for anyone with a minimum of sensibility. The contrary is in fact true, to go on the necessary journey avoiding the temptation of suicide and or nihilism out of sheer boredom is nearly impossible without the poetic for in the beginning was the Word and the Dancer.

Emanuel Paparella2009-12-26 13:28:11
P.S. Graham Green, for one, used to play Russian roulette as a young man out of boredom and disgust for the absurdity and meaninglessness of his life and that of many others around him, till he found his true calling and destiny. One can also parachute out of a plane but at $300 a jump that's a rather expensive habit for injecting some excitement into one's life. Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel from sunrise to sunset for four years and finding meaning thereby and declaring at 89 that he was still learning, may have the key to the conundrum work/pleasure/sacrifice. Food for thought.

Emanuel Paparella2009-12-26 13:36:35
P.S.S. Watching Bill Jones' "Fondly we hope, ardently we pray" one realizes that the word myth has gotten a bum wrap when misguidedly understood as falsehood. One also realizes that anything that incarnates itself in a body is paradoxically a myth but an historical reality too; back to the Incarnation...

ap2009-12-27 00:36:17
If truth be told, Michelangelo didn't pray as ardently as he desired his apprentices. Another motivation to work?

ap2009-12-27 22:51:18
A bit like David Letterman, he had to have some kind of motivation in the workplace. So it seems that the phenomenon is neither new nor modern...

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