Wednesday, December 24, 2014

why do I celebrate Christmas?

Someone asked me the other day if I celebrate Christmas. It's a fair question -- I am an atheist, and a practicing Buddhist. It would seem not to be a holiday you would find on my personal calendar. And yet I love it.

Part of it is this. I grew up rootless, tradition-less. My parents immigrated from Europe and all our other relatives were still there. So we didn't have grandma's pumpkin bread, or great aunt Tillie's eggnog, or stories of Christmas past that it seemed everyone else had. So I wanted all of it. I wanted Christmas carols, stockings, the tree. I would have wanted a Christmas goose or figgy pudding, if I had known what those were. I told Santa my Christmas wishes and worried that we didn't have a chimney. I loved all the Christmas cards that would arrive.

As an adult, with a child of my own, I wanted tradition. TRADITION. We carved out a few of our own, and we made sure the grandparents and aunts and uncles were part of every Christmas. I wanted our kid to feel a sense of family, of history, of belonging someplace.

But now the kid is mostly grown. And I still adore Christmas. I love giving gifts, finding the thing that will make someone light up, or just feel loved and remembered. I love how people express their feelings during the Christmas season. Hugs, kisses, warm wishes, it's all okay to share on Christmas. There are no strangers on Christmas. Everywhere there is kindness. People share what they can, give what they can.

Christmas gives me hope. If we can all be like this for a day, for a week, we can be like this always. We can live with open hearts. We can take care of each other.

May all beings be at peace. May all beings be free from suffering. May all beings be free from the causes of suffering.

Merry Christmas, every one!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

taken to school

I got taken to school today. My 20 year old son took exception to my use of the word "thug". Actually, he took exception to my purchasing Thug Kitchen, a cookbook I actually hoped he would use and enjoy. He was offended by the title, and by its use by two white authors from California. After an hour of arguing back and forth, I have to admit he's right.

"Thug" is a label, and as such, once you have pinned it on someone, it dismisses any hope of seeing that person as human, as an individual. The kiddo pointed out that labeling someone is counter to my values, and inconsistent with my world view. Score one for the kiddo -- he is absolutely, painfully, correct.

His other argument was a little harder to deal with. He feels that the word  is increasingly used as a nice way of avoiding the "N' word, while still getting the point across. In his view, it is racism, but of a more socially acceptable flavor. I argued vehemently, because, you know "I'm not a racist". But. In doing a little uncomfortable introspection, I've gotta say I've come to use the word the same way Fox News uses it -- to group people who look and act a certain way, and say that they are trouble. It is a subtler variation of the old "good" blacks vs "bad" blacks labeling of the civil rights era.  It is scary how easy it is to fall into this way of thinking. It was wrong then. It is wrong now. And I had no idea it had crept into my thinking.

It is hard for me as the mom, to have my kid pointing out my flaws. It is painful to have my behavior scrutinized. But it is also wonderful. My kid is his own person. He thinks about things. He can spot hypocrisy a mile away. He speaks his mind. And I can learn from him, just like he did from me.