This time of year is a funny one. Beautiful – full of love and giving, consuming (big time!), closeness, togetherness. It’s a time that holds so much potential for we humans to express and experience that state of awe, bliss, rapture – captured so perfectly in the above video.
But too often, we forget this – or miss out on it – because we become so tied up in our own little worlds, all that we have to do (shopping, cooking, baking, decorating – all to impress others or somehow express our love in ways that we know how to), that stress and smallness overcome the appreciation of amazing abundance and connectedness that we could – and SHOULD be feeling. We have a responsibility to it. To stay stuck in our own mini, everyday experiences of life is to do the evolution of the world an incredible disservice.
We must, everyday, find something to be in AWE of. It could be anything, it could bring us sadness or happiness, worry or peace, but we must appreciate the vastness of the collective human experience in some way. If we can’t do this, we cannot fully experience life and love. We must get our of what’s comfortable for us, and be MOVED by something.
I was struck by this feeling of complete awe a couple of weeks ago. During that week that has become known as the hugest shopping week of the entire year, containing Black Friday and more recently Cyber Monday – wherein we shop like, well, the crazed consumers that we are – I listened to a radio news story about a very different part of the world. While so many of us here in North America were shopping our hearts out (in the name of what again?), the World Food Program was forced to suspend its program feeding over one million Syrian refugees, displaced from the ongoing war in the Middle East.
This means that before Christmas and the approaching challenges of wintertime, these people will be left to starve – helpless, away from their homes and often families – if the necessary funds are not redirected towards this essential food program. Upon learning of this ongoing, multi-layered disaster, I was struck with a feeling of awe.
Astonishment that many of us here are mindlessly shopping for things we don’t need, preparing to or already stuffing our bellies with extravagant amounts of indulgent food that make us feel comforted, perhaps, but not quite happy or good. Amazed at the suffering that others in this world are experiencing, while so many of us turn our eyes or pretend not to let it bother us, the unfairness of this vast inequality.
While I immediately felt a sense of disgust and absolute guilt for all I have, I tried to ease this pain with a good effort towards gratitude. It worked very temporarily, but did not in any way provide a solution to this incredible problem with our world in my mind – which let’s be honest, is needed. Another reason why we have a responsibility to get beyond our day to day complacency and feel some shock and awe.
What seems ironic here, is that we can enjoy such abundance while others in a different part of the world experience such desperate lack. However, I don’t think as many of us truly experience peace and joy at Christmastime as we are expected to. There’s a lot of stress, pain, discomfort, inadequacy, obligation, longing, some sort of void that we all experience at this time.
And I don’t think that this is disconnected to an intuitive knowing that something isn’t right in our world. That we aren’t being the humans that we’re meant to be, we aren’t reaching our potential for good or experiencing that feeling of awe like we should be, could be.
A few days later, after hearing about what is happening in Syria, I was again (coincidentally? serendipitously?) struck by this same feeling of awe, in a negative sense. Positive in the way that it made me feel incredibly grateful for my level of privilege, that I felt compelled to do something about it, but generally negative about the state of our world.
As I sat in my favourite cafe, working away on my computer, another regular came in the door from the cold December morning. Our friend, Dale, shakily walked in the room along with his walker holding all of his belongings – a blanket, some clothes and that’s about it. He was talking a bit of gibberish, his mind not able to make too much sense in words after being out in the cold all night. Saint Joe quickly got him a coffee and a bowl of soup.
Have any one of us experienced this, do we know what sort of damage our bodies and minds, not to mention spirits would experience from spending months sleeping outside, on cold cement in the wintertime? Is this something we can judge negatively? Or is this something that we simply become appalled at, in awe that this reality exists for other humans?
I write to you about these recent experiences of astonishment that I have had not to take away from the beauty and joy of Christmas time, but to emphasize the necessity that we allow ourselves to feel compassion for and connection to the afflictions of others. We cannot and will not experience true happiness until we are contributing to a better world for all.
I’d like to encourage you to bring this to your thoughts and rituals this Christmas. Practice gratitude for all you have, cherish abundance, and help to share this abundance with not only those you love and are closest to, but with those who suffer – who you don’t know but who you are nonetheless integrally connected to. We are responsible to other humans, and simply turning a blind eye does not change this beautiful element of our humanity.
Choose to move towards resolving this unfairness however you best feel you can right now. We can all do something! What I feel compelled to contribute to this year is the World Food Program and their incredible emergency relief efforts. I will be donating every dollar of delicious Gratitude Food treats sold this month to this program. If this resonates with you – you can click the DONATE NOW link here. Of course, do whatever feels right for you, whatever moves you into action. Of course, simply donating money is really not enough to change our world, but it is a place to begin.
I also intend on gathering talented friends around an initiative in the Hamilton area, a city where we have many homeless and struggling friends, to develop an initiative centred around horticultural therapy and developing self-sufficiency skills.
I wish you all a Christmas season filled with moments of illumination, love, and connection to the rest of us – in our common experiences of suffering and bliss, always vacillating, always learning, always growing.
A huge thank you to the amazing Jason Silva for his inspiring work – check it out!