I’m a half-WASP, half-Jew American Buddhist, and I like to have a Christmas Tree. Christmas trees date back to pagan Wintertime rituals. I don’t mind the shining star on Boulder’s Foothills, which many non-Christians regard as an imposition. I say a star’s a star. I take it from the Christians, and I give it to all people: it’s just a star. It’s Wintertime. It’s beautiful, shining on the snowy mountain. America is and always will be a melting pot—that’s why we have racial, religious tensions. That’s also why, once a generation or so, we have Suffrage, or the Civil Rights Act, or President-elect Barrack Hussein Obama. Next generation, we will return (for we can not give that which is inherent) full rights under the law to our Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters.
On my Christmas Tree, which my momma calls a Lineage Tree, I hang handmade ornaments that feature pictures of my Buddhist teachers. I hang snowflakes, and (organic) candy canes, and LED Christmas lights. I love Christmas: I love simple, personal presents. I love cozyness, and world-quieting white snow, which still hasn’t come to my hometown in Colorado this year, even though it’s December 2nd. (Global warming?). I love fires, and dinners, and parties with friends and colleagues.
I love, at this darkest time of the year, remembering that life is short, and it progresses quickly, and memory fades, and all that really matters is being a good person, and making the better of two iffy choices every step along the way. It’s a wonderful life, after all.
So let’s put the ‘holy‘ back in the Holidays. Let’s buy gifts that better the world, and support good people doing good things. Let’s put away our phones and laptops and TVs—if only briefly—and make some eye contact, and say the obvious: “I love you, and this is why.” Or, “I’m sorry things have been funny between us. Let’s be genuine, and have a good talk.” Because, before you know it, one third of your friends will have died of old age or accidents or dis-ease. Why, just a week ago, an only-recently-perfectly healthy friend of mine passed away of cancer.
In Buddhism we say: this precious human birth is fragile. Make good use of it. Think about others as much as you do yourself. Meditate a few minutes, at least, each morning. Don’t chase after the fast food of life: sex, bad food, money, big houses, big cars. They don’t make you happy. The only thing that makes you happy is you sorting yourself out.
As my parents’ Buddhist teacher used to say, Good Luck, Sweetheart. We’ll need it.