(Please note: this is a reposting of stuff written for Facebook before I started this blog. I am including it here now as it part of the Yule string of thoughts.)
More thoughts on sharing. Another beautiful afternoon on Windmill Hill, sharing time with the Holly dog. I think dogs teach us to get out there and enjoy the moment. Forget about all the worries filling up your head and enjoy the warmth of the sun, the bite of the wind and the beating of your heart. Holly’s total enthusiasm for everything she does is inspirational. Thanks for sharing that enthusiasm with me, Holly.
Sharing time with people (or animals) you like is a key part of the Christmas experience. My Yule thing started last weekend spending time with my friends from the Jordan Trek. Then I spent a lovely evening with my sister and brother in law. Then I saw other family members. Sadly, I ran out of time and couldn’t see everybody. Events conspired to prevent me seeing an old friend from university days. But, all in all, it was a great weekend. There is a sort of charge I get from spending time around people I like. I think humans are a sociable species. We need each other. Together, we are more than the sum of our parts. Anybody who has played in a team, or a band will tell you this. I spent most of my working life teaching Drama which is all about getting people to work together. And being part of a theatre production – as an performer, audience or part of the production team- is a very special experience: the experience of working with other people, trusting them, relying on them to do their bit, surrendering yourself to create something greater than you ever could alone. It is both humbling and enriching. So, the school Christmas production, the singing of carols in the square, the Christmas service in church, the Boxing Day match, the Panto (oh I love a panto!), anything where people come together and give of their time in order to make something happen is brilliant. Whether you are a performer or a spectator, try to be part of something bigger then your self. That’s why I do the treks for charity. That’s what I get out of doing a tai chi set with a group rather than on my own. The energy of the group. It does me good – hope it does you good too.
More mince pies delivered today. Different source. Equally delicious. (And I am not just being diplomatic). Different deal. The deal with this delivery is a batch of mince pies in exchange for a Christmas cake. My wife Jo makes the best Christmas cake but is never completely happy with her mince pies. So the exchange is with someone who is not happy making Christmas cake. A fair exchange. A sharing of expertise. Makes sense.
And another friend brought a dozen eggs. She has chickens. They are good at laying. She has a surplus. They are very tasty eggs. I helped her son prepare for his English exam retake. Used my expertise. Fair exchange. Sharing what we have. Actually, I really enjoyed working with her son. It didn’t feel like work. It got my brain working. It was fun. Hope the chickens felt the same.
Finally, I want to try and clarify my attitude towards the Christian element of Christmas. I worried that I came across as a bit anti-Christian. I’m not – though I can be a bit anti-church, I’m anti-institutions generally! To clarify – I don’t believe in a Christian concept of God. I don’t believe that Jesus was the son of God. I don’t believe in the Virgin birth. But I do believe that there is much that we can learn from the story of Christ’s birth. It seems to me that is all about sharing and gifts. The idea that God gives us his only son as a gift knowing what we will do to him is a powerful one. Giving despite the cost. Giving away your most precious thing with no guarantee of return. It is a hard act to follow and a demanding model. But a good one. I also like that the three kings/wise men bring expensive gifts but the shepherds get there first and give the only gift they have which is their time and attention. And the born in a manger thing. The whole anti-bling attitude. The lowly birth. The rejection of material wealth in favour of spiritual development. All that I like very much. And so ultimately I applaud Christianity for safe-guarding the spiritual aspect of Christmas against the wolf of consumerism.
Finally, finally. Sorry this posting is so late but we have just returned from sharing the celebration of someone’s birth. Sharing friendship, food, cake, fire, music, dancing, conversation and some wicked sloe gin. Happy birthday, Lucy!