Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Finding the Light

'Twas a rough night.
Macbeth Act II, Scene III

An acquaintance recently told me she and her family were off to Ohio for the holidays. They hadn't been home for Christmas in nine years. This is in keeping with recent surveys telling us that holiday travel is up this year. Trains, planes and automobiles are gassed and ready to go.

I wonder why. The economy hasn't improved that much, and yes, oil prices have dropped, but airline tickets haven't. What gives?

This is only speculation, but I suspect it's because 2014 was a pretty crap year. You were there, you saw the headlines and the heartbreak. Much of our world mayhem was human-made but, of course, Mother Nature kept up her share of the calamity. It got to the point that opening my laptop, unrolling the newspaper or clicking on the TV would cause my stomach to clutch. Every day I brace for more horrible news of devastating illness, missing planes, acts of terrorism, more guns fired, bone-chilling cyber wars, or all those hurt children. As a global community we are walking around in a near constant state of dismay.

Maybe this is why we want to gather and return to the familiar. To hug a little closer and laugh a little louder. Maybe we need to share delicious food across tables with those we know and recall sweeter times.

I can't wait to say "So long!" to 2014.

So what to do? How can we hope for better in 2015? We seem to be in a battle of mythic proportions between light and dark — and dark is taking the lead. This is the base camp of our deepest fear, that the light will lose to the dark.

Let us gather and celebrate our Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year's Eve with the familiar. Let us find strength and fortitude, then let us branch out. Perhaps if we move into the unfamiliar and challenge ourselves, we can fan the light.

I was recently told this: Neuroscientists say one of the best things you can do for your brain is step out of your comfort zone, generating new brain circuitry and nourishing healthy neuro-plasticity.

It can start small. Read a book to a kid you don't know, praise a stranger, carry a grocery bag to somebody's waiting trunk, I don't know, I'm spitballing here — but I do know this, there is a fountain of youth and well-being in the act of reaching out. I can tell you firsthand that the more difficult the undertaking, the greater the reward. It should be a little uncomfortable to climb a new mountain.

I wonder if more of us did more good for more strangers that we could whip up the embers of light and win.

I wish you a tender-hearted holiday season and a new year of health, adventure and giving.

It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. 
It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.
—Anne Frank, July 15, 1944

last photo from Gulfport Sunrise

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