Today, Jo’s family came down from Sheffield to visit. Her mum, sister and sister’s husband, plus sister’s son and his wife. There are plenty more who, for various reasons couldn’t make it this weekend, but it was really nice to spend time with those that came.
Often, we share Christmas Day with these family members. Usually we drive up North to Sheffield and they feed and drink us. So, it was nice to be able to return the favour and look after them. Not that I did much. Jo had very clear ideas about what she wanted to cook – a sort of traditional Christmas dinner but with a few twists. Jo is a great cook so, when she has an idea in mind, it is best to just go with it. Ask what I can do to help and do as requested.
It worked. The meal was splendid. We ate. Drank. Pulled crackers. Told bad jokes. Sang carols around the piano. Dozed before a fire. Completed the rituals. So that things were as they should be. It was a good day.
On Friday evening, we shared a different meal. Followed different rituals. A friend, an old neighbour, who now lives a twenty minute drive away was holding a fire. A sacred fire. She and her partner are Firekeepers. Each month they hold a fire in their garden. Anyone is welcome to attend. The idea is simple: the fire holds a space where people can meet and connect with each other. On a most basic level. As people around the world have done for centuries. Simply sharing space, sitting around a fire.
This fire has its own rituals. At the beginning of the evening, offerings are made to the fire. The fire is opened. The fire becomes Sacred. Sacred Fire. sacred place. Later, jokes are told, songs sung, drums drummed, questions asked, opinions expressed. And, when you leave, you make a final offering. Close the fire.
I have attended many of these fires. I like the rituals. I like the kind of people that are drawn to these fires (for, as you may imagine, it tends to attract a certain sort of person), I like sitting outside in the Dark.
But, this Friday, there was a dilemma: another friend was performing in a panto that evening. I love a panto (see earlier blog: https://andyjukes.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/yule-calendar-19-playing-with-transformation-hes-behind-you/
and I wanted to watch my friend perform. But, I wanted to go to the fire too. We hadn’t been to one for several months. Hadn’t seen those friends for several months. Plus, earlier that week had been our friend’s birthday. She was having a shared meal before the fire. We wanted to take her a card and present. We were torn.
In the end, the choice came down to no choice: we wanted to go to the panto but we needed to go to the fire. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it, but the fire has Power. Power to heal. Power to bring stuff to the surface that needs to see the Light. If you are feeling tired, confused, soul-weary, the fire will sort you out. I don’t quite know how, but it does. At this particular fire, we were only a few and we just talked, shared how we were feeling about the world. I don’t feel that it is right to write about what other people had to say at the fire. I feel that the fire is a sacred place and deserves the confidentiality of the confessional. But, I am happy to record what the fire brought out of me.
Much of it revolves around the notion of responsibility. I feel that most of the difficulties we are now experiencing in the world are due to a failure to take responsibility for one’s actions. Look at the mess and horror of Syria. A twisted tangled wreckage that is ultimately the result of successive World Powers and Governments failure to take responsibility for their actions: arming rebels, supporting regimes, denying involvement. The same could be said for the Middle East in general. For all the war zones around the world. Wars that are the result of (largely) rich, Western nations meddling in the affairs of poorer nations. Usually for their own benefit. And then trying to walk away, denying involvement when things do not go quite as planned.
The same behaviour accounts for much suffering on an individual, personal level. Because it is very hard to take full responsibility for all your actions. All your mistakes. Lord knows, I have tried to duck a few major ones in my time. And we live in a society that encourages us to ignore our responsibilities. A society that actively hides our responsibilities from us. When you live in a society where, each week, your rubbish is collected for you and taken away, you don’t really have to think about your rubbish. You put it in your bin. And forget about it. Your rubbish doesn’t magically disappear. It has to go somewhere. But you don’t know where. So, it is hard to care. When we lived in Sri Lanka, there was no rubbish collection. You had to deal personally with whatever rubbish you produced. Bury it or burn it. So, you tended to think a lot more carefully about the rubbish you produced. Tended to produce a lot less of it.
So, in a world where denying responsibility seems to be normal, it is both surprising and hugely encouraging to see that the Climate Talks in Paris have had such a positive outcome. The world’s nations have finally taken responsibility for climate change. Even more remarkably, they have agreed to work together to take responsibility for the health of our planet. Rich nations have acknowledged their responsibility to help poorer nations. For sure, Governments will have to be held to account to do what they have promised and it remains to be seen whether we can actually do it – but it is a beginning. Better than I ever expected. A cause for celebration.
So, my gift for today is another song. A song of celebration. A Happy song.
and another. Because I’m feeling devilish.