Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Holiday Spirit

I can't believe I'm a week into December already!  I've been so busy that things are passing in a blur.  After a long dry spell, I have more work right now than I can handle.  This is certainly a good problem to have, but it is a bit stressful, and it sometimes feels like I'm doing my best just to tread water.  So, apologies for falling off the face of the planet recently!

In-between "so busy I can barely think" and "hibernating through having the flu," I've also spent this last week or so being thoroughly invigorated by holiday spirit.  I can't wholly explain this.  As an atheist and non-consumer, I rarely get swept up in all the holiday hype.  And yet, here it is...a little glimmer of warmth in my heart that is undeniably part of the "magic" of Christmas. 

Maybe I've just been watching too many Christmas movies.  My main computer has been in the shop since Friday, so I've spent the weekend on the couch with my laptop, playing every Christmas movie I have for background noise.  After systematically working my way through National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, The Grinch, Scrooged, Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands, it's hard not to feel some peace on earth and good will toward men. 

But I think it goes a little deeper than that.  Actually, I can think back and pinpoint the exact moment when I got infected with this holiday cheer. 

I spent Thanksgiving with my parents and one of my brothers.  The holiday itself was quiet and low-key, just how we like our holidays in our family.  But after Thanksgiving, I went with my mom on a quest to buy some luminarias for her house -- and along the way, I stopped off at a Walgreens to pick up antacids for my partner.  They had a Toys for Tots donation box, and I had a bit of money in my pocket, and I suddenly had the urge to drop something in. 

So I picked out a stuffed raccoon from the shelf -- a very cute toy, and one I couldn't help but cuddle a little before I bought it and dropped it in the box.  And somehow, the tiny act of buying a $10 stuffed toy for an anonymous child, caused something deep inside of me to waken and stir. 

Holidays and the Spirit of Giving

The next time you start to feel miserable and overwhelmed by the wanton cruelty and greed int he world, here's a factthat should cheer you up: According to science, human beings (as all social animals) are actually genetically hardwired for giving.  Being generous is actually in our DNA.  Which would explain, perhaps, why every major religion values compassion and generosity.  And it's probably why even a cynical atheist like me gets the warm fuzzies from the simplest acts of kindness. 

It's my belief that empathy is at the very core of what makes us human.  Our ability to recognize others and realize, "They have feelings just like me!" is the glue that makes all of our social interactions work.  We choose not to hurt people because we ourselves do not want to be hurt.  This is, I think, why storytelling is so important: By learning to care about fictional people, we build the emotional tools necessary to deal with real ones.  By telling monomyths, we create cultural markers that we can all gather around and celebrate. 

Holidays are one of those cultural markets.  We need them because we are creatures of superstition and ceremony.  We need rituals and talismans.  We need magic.  We need an excuse to celebrate so that we can remind ourselves that the long night will come to an end and all will not be cold and darkness forever. 

My Season of Giving

My partner is more naturally inclined to random acts of kindness than I am.  He has a big, loving heart and he can't stand to see people suffer.  He also has no guile or mouth filter; he says exactly what's on his mind and is perennially unembarrassed about being himself.  Where my social anxieties might hold me back from reaching out, he just steps in and lets his heart guide him right through his life. 

I really respect that about him.  So I try to follow his lead, as best I can. 

Yesterday, we went out to pick up some lunch at a local Vietnamese restaurant.  A man outside asked if we could spare some change so he could get some food.  Instead of turning him down or digging for loose change, David invited him to come inside and eat lunch with us.  We bought him some food (enough for two meals - he took some to go for that evening) and had a nice chat about his life and circumstances.  We connected like humans. 

For me, it fed that glowing warmth in me, that Christmas spirit that's been building all week.  For David, it was just what a decent human being is supposed to do. 

If you've never tried it, I urge you to go out tomorrow and do something kind for a stranger.  It doesn't have to be a big thing: Pay for the person behind you in line, tip generously, help an old lady load groceries in her car.  Just reach out to another human, and see what happens.  You never know...even atheists can get a little Christmas miracle sometimes ;) 

And a Bit of Housekeeping...

Tagestraum is still slated to be ready around Christmas, if things go according to plan, and I'm still very excited for it. 

I also have a very special Christmas story planned for all of my newsletter subscribers.  If you want to get it, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter before Christmas!  The link is over there ===>

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