Many people notice an altered milieu around Christmas. Some of us seem actually feel a palpable change in the energy. There’s less of the type of anxiety we get when we go into a crowded airport and more of the tranquility we feel in a relaxed café. Certain people could most likely tell you the difference between these two environments while wearing ear plugs and a blindfold because they depend on all their senses, even those they don’t completely understand. Around Christmas, most people can feel the difference at some point because it’s so profound. It’s like the difference between heavy pressure from a wire brush and the firm application of a familiar hand.
There is often a sense of mixed emotions in the weeks before Christmas, but as we get closer people in general tend to behave differently. That certain waiter, the one who consistently strains your theory that people working with the public deserve increased empathy, is more polite. The person who constantly wants to argue about things that divide us might actually stop seeking conflict for a few days. Everything seems almost peaceful in the world.
Then we celebrate a new year and typically forget Yule tidings in the pursuit of individual resolutions. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating. Some of us celebrate Christmas heartily. Of course, sometimes we adapt plans if certain activities would cause a companion to stumble. We don’t have to agree with others’ perspectives or even understand them, but we should be willing to put aside such things or even learn from them when friendship is concerned.
The great teachers from Christ to Gandhi to Buddha to Socrates understood the importance of self-enlightened interest. When we do good for others, we tend to be rewarded in some fashion. Pessimists may counter that no good deed goes unpunished, but sages understand good deeds become their own rewards. No amount of money, fame, prestige, achievement, or any other type of external attainment will bring us comfort when we look in the mirror if we have not done something to better who we are by helping others. That is the essence of earthly life for humanity no matter how we deny or run from it.
So often, we make New Year’s resolutions hastily and fall back on common themes of getting in shape or donating more. Sometimes we feel like we have to focus on only one area. Sometimes, for example, we erroneously think we can’t concentrate on physical fitness and mental development or spirituality. More often than not, continued success in one area is optimized by maintaining excellence in the others. Conversely, a problem in one area ends to leak into other areas. Sometimes we make too many resolutions or get overwhelmed by grand aspirations because we try to fly before we crawl. As Henry David Thoreau said, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” Foundations are built one brick at a time.
What are some small things you can do to make a big difference in your life and the lives of others?
Photo by TewTam LLC Fine Art Photography and Painting. tewtam.com