Friday, 30 December 2011

Stepping out of the Christmas Nightmare

 Stepping out of the Christmas Nightmare and into the New Year

On the second day of Christmas a young man is stabbed through the heart, as shoppers battle for bargains on Oxford Street.  Across the country, parents drop exhausted from getting and spending on fashion items, electronic gadgets and software, mindful of the fact that poor children are bullied at school if they turn up without the latest consumer products. To the proverbial visitor from outer space, the collective madness of the consumerist Christmas must appear as a time of very little heartfelt joy.

For so many people Christmas is a time of great sadness. The empty chairs of families separated by premature bereavement, broken relationships and war, show up the getting and spending for what it is – at best a worthless sham. The joy of being together in good company, of giving time, not things, of putting home-made words to home-made music, of sharing sadness and joy with families, friends and community over the twelve Holy Nights: that is what a real Christmas is all about.

Christmas can be a time to start the vital task of “Gardening the Soul”. As Sister Stanislaus Kennedy explains in her book of that name:

“People are tiring of the competitive consumer-driven world we live in. They are starting to ask, What can be done to reverse the trend towards extreme individualism? How can we live our lives caring for ourselves and being supportive to others?

“I believe we can only fill this gap by developing a sense of ownership of the world and times we live in. This is our time and it is up to us to choose our destinies. What happens here, now, is our responsibility. It is not a matter of doing great things: it is a matter of doing or saying small things with responsibility and courage.”

A seemingly impossible undertaking so long as we remain in thrall to the brave new technological world where, we live under the illusion that there is no alternative but to work for an economic system which we do not understand, producing goods and services which we do not really need, whilst longing for Friday, holidays and retirement. “The world is” indeed “too much with us”:

 “Getting and spending we lay waste our powers:
   Little we see in nature that is ours. …”

Two hundred years after Wordsworth put pen to paper, Sister Stanislaus draws our attention to the solid fact that “NOW is the time to live”, to step outside the make-believe world of work and consumerist desires, so that “we develop a sense of ownership of the world and the times we live in.” It is indeed up to us all individually to abandon protest and wage-slavery, seeking to “choose our destinies” for ourselves. In that way we can, with Sister Stanislaus, encourage others to “Take time to live – it’s what life is for.”

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