Saturday, December 22, 2012

How To Find Peace At Christmas

Despite pastoral greeting cards, uplifting symphonic music and cozy comfort food, many people still struggle to find the peace on earth they hope for at Christmas.

Some seek peace by revisiting traditional religion, at least for a seasonal concert. However, the aural ecstasy of Handel's Messiah may not drown out the oral acridity left from a dose of bad religion administered in childhood. Candlelight and incense cannot make a sanctuary beautiful if it is also filled with messages of self loathing and mortification. Choir robes sometimes cover a heart laden with guilt or even a backside laden with whipmarks.

(I mean the self-inflicted flagellation whipmarks not those administered by a smoking-hot leather-bound Asian woman as God clearly intended.)

Other peace seekers confess their shortcomings to the secular priesthood of shrinks. They pay dearly for a listening ear, an attentive eye, and an affirming voice saying "Find yourself, forgive yourself, accept yourself, hug yourself and pleasure yourself." Yet, the resulting peace is less tangible and often shorter-lived than the therapy bills.

Even the highly-paid, fully-self-actualized lady surgeons of Grey's Anatomy who cannot turn a hospital hall corner without crashing into a hunky boy-toy wanting to service their greying anatomies cannot turn the same corner without asking their gal pals, "Am I a terrible person?" The only polite answer is "No!" Thus, this formula of pseudo-contrition is only a self-serving manipulation that seeks affirmation and absolution without risking a call for change and growth. (Maybe the best response is Cloris Leachman's line in Spanglish: "Lately, your low self esteem has just been good common sense.")

So, this brings us to the baby who peed in a manger. When he grew up, he wasn't nearly as cute, but he spoke two words vastly more profound than ga-ga or even Lady Gaga's five words rah-rah-oom-pah-pah. Those would be: "Deny yourself." Why not exalt yourself or loathe yourself? Because pride and insecurity are really two sides of one corroded coin. They both indicate people comparing themselves with other mortals then basing their self worth on the results. "I'm so sexy I frighten myself," and "I never feel like I measure up," are equally warped.

The ancient Jewish scriptures warn, "From dust you are and to dust you will return." This is not a put down (or a compliment to Texans who think coming from a dusty place makes you better). This is an observation of reality. Denying the constant demand of the ridiculous dusty self to be the center of the universe is just good common sense and the only sane course. The self is unqualified for the job it seeks.

Around the world and all through history, humans have found peace by denying the ludicrous claims of the self. Here's basic theology: God be God, and you don't be! Spiritual people submit themselves to that which is higher. Wicked drama queens look in the mirror and ask, "Who's the fairest of them all?" Yet, the name "Happy" belongs to a dwarf/midget/little person who looked like half a dozen others and wasn't much in the grand scheme of things but accepted his destiny then sang hi-ho and whistled while he worked. Wanna be happy? Don't take yourself so seriously. Stop mirror gazing and begin star gazing!

Still, finding self worth in looking up rather than putting down isn't the most common human way. All around the globe, cosmetic companies sell skin-whitening potions that exploit old racist insecurity and support old racist pride. Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities regularly endorse these vile products that reject the wisdom of the Divine Artist who painted with a diverse color palette.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas where people everywhere aspire not to snow white skin but to a snow white heart that looks up at the treetop star, not as a reflective surface in which to admire ourselves or obsess over our flaws, but a celestial harbinger that we are small, that there is One who is big, and that this One actually gives a damn. We wish you a merry Christmas, peace on earth, and good will toward all.

1 comment:

  1. And otherwise, the smoking hot leather bound Asian woman is waiting upstairs....

    Good post, Lyn!