Family gatherings can be marvelous measures of familial love and support. The crackle and spark from a well-stoked hearth, the mellow numbing of mind after a few cocktails shared in the proper spirit of the season, the laid-back luxuriating in one’s favourite chair with the soft chatter of folks well-fed -- all of these aspects of ritual seasonal gatherings can confer upon one and all an ennobling that somehow raises these events above the everyday-ness of less “special” gatherings.
It’s probably a good idea to turn off the damned TV on these occasions, though; and to keep an eye on the amount of good cheer circling the drains of the open throats of some of those nearest and dearest to you. Because woe betide the gathering that lets the shite of current events belching out of the box take root like a chancre, vexingly positioned and irritation-inducing enough to take the happy patina off these family affairs entirely. Add to the media mayhem a few stiff ones and somebody is gonna get political on your collective asses, even in the midst of a blessed season of hope like Christmas.
It’s tough to leave the world behind. After all, its inhabitants do so much each and every day to lead one to despair and to question whether the species ever actually went through a period of “Enlightenment.” The dream of justice for all and societies built upon aspirationally-shared common goods is just that, a dream. And that dream is contradicted each and every day of the year. Of course, everyone seems to have their own opinions, hard-won or otherwise, that tend to come up when the TV is distracting these seasonal events with the turmoil afoot near and far.
But if you’re a little wise, and you haven’t had too many wobbly pops, you are best to flee from your hard held positions the minute you enter the family circle -- and keep the damned TV turned OFF, unless you’re tuned to a cool blues music channel that can keep things flowing with an element of soothing sound.
In a former life, I remember the Holocaust-denying father-in-law whose revisionist views were incomprehensible to me. After a lovely Christmas Eve service at the family church and a lovely meal, the TV was on and Claude Lanzmann’s magnificent documentary about the destruction of European Jewry, “Shoah,” was airing. As the evening and the documentary proceeded, and “Dad’s” drinking continued, his protestations over the number murdered, and the Zionist-controlled governments directing us towards One World enslavement would have been odious even to primary schoolers; and yet, he went on to regale the family with heart-warming intonations of Nazi-era Volkslieder and liberally lubricated invitations to join him and his friends at a local German restaurant on April 20th to celebrate the Fuhrer’s birthday in the Spring.
That particular Christmas Eve gathering didn’t go down well with anyone and before long, not due to the shameful views of an erstwhile father-in-law, the marriage was a bust too.
Nominally, Christmas refers to the birth of humanity’s “saviour,” according to various Christian churches. And for better or worse, the holiday is probably the most significant one on the calendar. It is a time when we can often be found reflecting on things as they are, and things as they might one day be. There’s an element of hope that is posited as a gesture into the new year to come.
And hope is a rare thing. It’s good for us to feel hope, as long as it is not delusional: Hope for a better world to come, the struggle to make a Heaven of Earth, the hope that fuels folks to bear witness to the world as it is, and to resist those that undermine what is best for the majority of us.
My editor here at Infonews.ca has suggested that I possess “the sorrowful heart of the disappointed optimist.” As much as I love the sound of these words, their very construction, I do not entirely agree. You see, Christmas has always signaled to me the myth that humanity can be redeemed. To me the message of Jesus’ teaching has profound applications for everyday life: The teachings delineate, ideally, how one might navigate through this madness of the moment by speaking truth to power, and bearing witness to the miracle of life in the moment as we can experience it each and every day. You don’t need to be a believer per se to derive these intimations of hope for a better world to come, not in the Hereafter, but in the soon-to-be.
In other words, my friends, we have much to be joyous about, even this Christmas. But don’t tempt fate with the possibility of derailing it all. Shut off the damned T.V. when family comes to call.
— Having lost his 2,500 volume library in the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, Jeffrey is beginning to fill the void by writing his own. Reach him at jeff.loewen(at)gmail.com