So the year slides to its end in the calm silence of these icy northern nights, and in crushing violence -- this year in the Middle East. Is it any wonder the stories we recite have become sentimentalized fables, as removed from the original text's setting of Roman oppression, militarism, and human poverty as our modern Christmas pageant creche scenes, acted out by children wearing homemade white wings and fake-fur sheep's ears, are from what our own governments and taxes now support in the lands of those poor shepherds? In spite of the Gospel message of peace, reconciliation between peoples, and an end to treating anyone as "less" or "other", we have 2000 years of intervening human history to show just how much we've learned.
So I've felt depressed and discouraged these last few days, by the news itself, and the way it's being reported in North America, and the lack of first-hand accounts. Is there indeed any cure for "our warring madness?" For all of human history we've seen wars waged, and disproportionate violence committed against the weak by the strong, in order to "stop violence" and teach rebellious subjects a lesson. Instead both the combattants become more vulnerable, more angry, more vindictive and bent on revenge - especially when young men on both sides watch their mothers, wives, old fathers and young children die, and proud and stubborn older men continue to hold the reins of power. I am a woman, and I suffer with all my sisters, on every side of every conflict; I have grown intensely weary of male anger and its effects.
Christmas and holiday cards arrive from far-flung friends, many expressing hope that Obama will truly represent change. I share their hope, but I am skeptical -- or rather, I think I'm realistic about what this good, decent, talented man will be able to achieve.
So I sit here, near a beautiful little Christmas tree shining with lights, and look out at the dark night, wondering about my own life and the use I've made of it. What have I done with the talents left in my safe-keeping? This is not the happiest thing to be pondering as yet another year slips away, but I'm afraid I'm apt to do it at least once during this season, worn down by too much holiday partying, too little sleep, and Montreal's bitter winds and brief days. For a time, I allow myself to tearfully miss my mother and the naive, carefree holidays of my childhood. I recite a bitter litany of personal griefs; seethe helplessly at the waste and violence of our societies and my part in it; deplore my own failures and weaknesses, my concessions and compromises.
And then I start to pull myself up, to face the new year rightly.
Thank you for being my companions, willing to share the days as they come and to read my attempts to write of them. Happy New Year, Bonne année. May we help each other to live it wholly, honestly, creatively, and with joy.