Holidays and holy days – and the dross and drivel which confuses and clouds over them
Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter…Yom Kippur, Hunakkah, Passover… Ramadan: these symbolic expressions of union, communion, gratitude, faith and love – what do they matter?
Except that they do.
As a naturally reclusive and largely solitary being, I often avoid such communal social gatherings, even though I honour and respect them, and value them deeply. But that is an indication of my own human limitations and short-comings, and not an indication of a feeling that these days and these celebrations are meaningless, trite or hollow, which they categorically are not.
Forgive me if I do not celebrate Columbus Day, or Presidents’ Day, or other such inanities and monuments of a culture gone mad. Celebrating conquest and empire is not something I want to do.
And forgive me if I also refuse to celebrate a crass and unholy materialism, a dedication to consumer fetishes, and the iconization of the mere flesh – flesh which is holy, but which becomes a barrier and a distraction, and even a prison, if not taken as a gateway, but instead, the destination, point of departure, and meaning of life. But I will celebrate, and commemorate, and mark, alone or together with others, the significant times and rituals which remind us all of what matters most: which is always, faith and love.
Be you secular, religious, anti-religious, spiritual, atheistic, or what have you, if you cannot commemorate love, at least – if not also, a wisdom which is superior,higher, broader and deeper than our own, as all the greatest of scientists, philosophers, poets and thinkers have done, by the way, then you are rebelling against common sense, and may the gods pity you, and bring comfort to your lost and beleaguered mind. We cannot, or need not, live in a shoe box of the mind, or the soul.
There are bigger realities than our own narrow views would suggest to the ever-changing flicker of consciousness, which we call, “me” and “I”. And as Heraclitus said, and Shakespeare quoted, “There is more to heaven and earth than is contained in your philosophy” – words I try to remember daily, for they sow humility: and with humility comes receptivity, and an open heart and mind – and everything that is truly valuable or worthwhile, stems from that.
There is something worth remembering, marking, making note of, and celebrating here, in these feast days, holidays, holy days, or cultural traditions of days of special note – or at least, some of these are worth remembering.
At the very least, let us celebrate love – even when it is strained, and perhaps most importantly when it is strained. You water your garden when it is dry, and has been without rain for some time – not when it is already drenched in a nourishing downpour. When it pours, celebrate, and when it is dry, remember, and nourish the good all the more.
Holidays and holy days: the former are for rest and relaxation, and sheer enjoyment; the latter, for remembering what is important. (And Martin Luther King Day is a holy day to me, or at least a day of great reverence for the Reverend, and it is so to many people, so let’s not be too quick to decide which is which.) Let’s keep remembering, and let us learn to forget that which distracts us from what is truly meaningful in life, or worse, clouds our minds with foolish or destructive illusions.
There is much to be remembered, much to be celebrated and commemorated, and more to the point, much to be honoured. And there is also much to be forgotten – or at least dispensed with.
Separate the wheat from the chaff. But don’t be so hasty in the process as to miss or overlook what is truly valuable, and worthy of being honoured, and remembered, nourished and sustained.
October 11, 2015
Essential reading for Columbus Day:
Stolen Continents: The Americas Through Indian Eyes Since 1492, by Ronald Wright
Year 501: The Conquest Continues, by Noam Chomsky
Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress – Howard Zinn