Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Celtic Advent - Day VII - November 21


Celtic Advent - Day VII - November 21, 2020

nayyirah waheed

you will find your way. it is
in the
same place

your love.

Halloween had just ended when suddenly, Christmas decorations appeared in the supermarket!

Along with that, there magically appeared two whole rows of plastic Christmas serving platters and cups and ceramic Santa Claus mugs and paper tablecloths and plates and napkins. And, another two whole section of boxes of Christmas cards. 

I don't know why, exactly, but I feel the need to point his out: Thanksgiving is Thursday. We haven't even gorged ourselves on turkey and pumpkin pie and people are already getting ready for Christmas.

I would join you in thinking that it's just the Madison Avenue marketing people who want us to get ready for Christmas but I saw people - several people, actually - putting Christmas stuff in their shopping basket, right next to all the stuff they were buying for Thanksgiving. 

I don't get it. 

I really hate feeling like *that* grumpy Episcopal priest (or organist or older gentleman or woman who identifies loudly as a "cradle Episcopalian" for no particular reason except they want to be certain that you know) who grinches and grumbles that there will be NO singing of Christmas Carols or Hymns during Advent. 

I'm really not *that* priest. Not that I can't be grumpy but, well, I guess I've learned to pick my battles carefully, there being so many occasions for them in the church.

Oh, I've been known to gently caution the organist and choir members that this is a "touchy subject" for many in the church so please "let's not give that fire any fuel," but beyond that, that's not a particular sword upon which I wish to fall.

Beyond the whole Madison Avenue PR campaign and arguments about "the evils of capitalism", however, I don't understand the need to rush things. It's part of our American culture, I fear. Everything's got to be better, bigger, stronger, faster.

It reminds me of Mandy Patinkin who sings my favorite version of "Coffee in a Cardboard Cup" from the Broadway musical "70, Girls, 70". Here are a few of the lyrics.

"The trouble with the world today, it seems to me
is coffee in a cardboard cup.

The trouble with the world today is plain to see
is everything is hurry up
There's Reddi Whip
Instant tea
Minute rice and my oh me.
There's coffee
I think she said 'coffee'
I know she said 'coffee'
In a cardboard cup'.

Is it instant gratification? Is that what we're after? Or, is it a result of overpopulation? 

I remember one of my first college courses in psychology. One particular psychological study, conducted over a twenty year period from 1950-1970, was getting lots of press. Psychologist John Calhoun's "mouse utopia" for the NIH was a study about the effects of population density on behavior. 

The work tapped into the era's feeling of dread that crowded urban areas heralded the risk of moral decay - and events like the murder of Kitty Genovese in NY only served to intensify the worry. A host of scientific works like Soylent Green and comics like 2000AD arouse and also inspired the 1971 children's books, "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH," which was also made into a 1982 film, "The Secret of NIMH" (one of my favorites). 

I suspect that 'feeling of dread' about moral decay has also contributed to dread about life in general. Life in these past four years, for many of us, have increased that sense of dread. The outbreak of COVID and racism and prejudice have served to intensify our sense of doom. 

Sometimes it feels to me that we, as a people, behave as if we have been caught in a rip tide - and, we're doing exactly the thing we're told not to do. 

As one who lives in a coastal community in a Midlantic State, we are made keenly aware of the danger of riptides. Riptides or rip currents, are long, narrow bands of water that quickly pull any objects in them away from the shore and out to sea. People often become exhausted struggling against the current, and cannot make it back to shore.

It's counterintuitive but the way to survive a riptide is to NOT swim toward the shore. If you do that, you will be fighting the current and, it is guaranteed, you will lose. There really is no contest. The riptide will always win. Some riptides can actually carry you hundreds of yards off shore.

Trying to swim against a riptide will only use up your energy; energy you need to survive and escape the riptide. So, the idea is to swim along the shoreline until you escape the current's pull. When free from the pull of the current, you swim at an angle away from the current toward the shore. 

Are you beginning to sense a spiritual metaphor here? 

I thought you would. 

I think of the rush to Christmas as a cultural riptide of sorts. It's so easy to get caught up in it and fight against it, exhausting ourselves and finally, ultimately, collapsing into its swirling waters, drowning in the cultural deep. 

Advent is a time to swim parallel to the Christmas Cultural Riptide or, depending on its strength and persistence, letting it take us a few hundred yards away from the shore until we can escape the current's pull. 

I suspect that is what the Celtic Advent offers us. Forty days and nights, as opposed to a mere four weeks, might just be the way to survive the Christmas cultural madness and keep us in touch with our spiritual core. 

Advent means "a coming into place, view or being; arrival". 

I'm quite partial to the idea of Advent being "a coming into place, view or being." There is no right or wrong way to do that. There is only your way. 

And, what it is that comes into place, view or being is unique to you. It may be the Baby Jesus, just as the hymns suggest. It may be to heed the many sermonic messages and "find the Christ in you" or "prepare a manger in your heart where Christ may dwell."

It may be a new, placental growth adhering itself to the wall of your soul, preparing to nurture a part of yourself that is yearning to find life and be born. 

Or, it may be the embryo of your authentic self which has had to remain hidden, terrified of judgment or consequence, but finally finding the right time to begin to emerge.

None of that can happen if you are fighting against the Christmas Cultural Riptide.

Here is a wee poem with deep meaning for tonight's meditation. May it be with you as you let the tide carry you away from the shore before you swim back home.

nayyirah waheed (from salt, 2013)

there is you and you.
this is a relationship.
this is the most important relationship. 

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