Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas! Okay? Well, deal with it!

First, let me say, "Merry Christmas" to you and your loved ones! [And FYI, I'm on vacation and many people have Monday the 26th off, so I'm counting it as part of the holiday weekend and so, next new blog, tomorrow.]

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!"
 - Charles Dicken 

That, is so true, if, you grew up with Christmas as a tradition. For many in America now, that is not true, unless it is from seeing it from afar. But for myself, I grew up with it. Even though I have dropped my belief in Western religions, I still celebrate it and have a warm feeling in my heart every year as it rolls around.

There has been a lot of controversy in recent times about the Christian, or secular, versions of, Christmas.

They have tried to remove the religious element from it ("Happy Holidays!"), leading to scrubbing the name of "Christ". But everyone is so used to calling it, "Christmas" that they grew up with it and it's burned into our collective consciousness; no one really wants to change that. But America now has such a multicultural diaspora that I'm sure, it is noticeable to those people who aren't Christians, or didn't grow up here with this in their childhood, or if they did, found it to be in some way, distasteful, so that they now want it changed since there is an open discussion of it.

TV has cut it out, and this year, they seem to be bringing it back. When I now hear, "Merry Christmas!" I almost cringe. And I find that annoying. Because it has moved along past its religious origins into a secular holiday of good cheer, warmth, and gift giving. The gift giving can and does get out of hand, but the basic premise, to give someone you care about, a gift, a free, no holds barred, no recompense expected, gift, something you would like them to have, perhaps, that they would never buy for themselves, is an excellent idea. I love it.

But really, you know there is nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas. I know some hard cord religious types want to push the original purpose ("To celebrate our Savior's birth") and all that, but really? If you're not Christian? Why would you have to remember that? I mean, you don't have to celebrate that, or even remember or think about it. After all, it's only really going to offend Christians if you are celebrating for other reasons and if others want to take on that Holiday and make it something universal, I think even Jesus, the misnamed individual who's birthday it was originally (kind of) set up to celebrate. And that's okay.

If you aren't a Christian and want to celebrate it for a completely other reason, I do think Jesus would be good with that. I'm not so sure of his followers after he died. I mean, just look how they have cocked it all up for two thousand years. I could go into things about this, how Jesus wasn't necessarily, "The Christ" in the purest intent of the original meaning, so I tend to call him Jesus, not Christ.

If it helps, try to imagine Jesus how he would look if he lived in modern times, rather than in the sandled, robed ancient Galilee region. I'm not even sure, were he to pop up right here, right now, that he would even appreciate having been giving that title of, "The Christ" for all its meaning and historical significance in Jesus' time, which is different than how modern Christians see it. He kept sidestepping that kind of stuff his entire life, until they started torturing him, which will mess up anyone's mind, son of God or not. And December 25, is a pagan holiday, and has nothing to do with Jesus birth.

That is, I believe, his actual name was "Yeshua", and not "Jesus", anyway. But you know how it is, the more well known and popular one wins. Because that is what is most important, not actuality, what was, but reality, what we conceive it to be, right? And he wasn't blonde haired, and blue-eyed, by the way, that doesn't even make any sense if you even, slightly think about it. He must have been somewhat easy on the eyes (you never hear about a homunculus being a prophet), he must have had some knowledge, which begets his being raised in ignorance or low birth, and he must have had some charisma, otherwise, no one would listen to, or follow him.

So no, I really don't see the issue with Christmas being celebrated, just sans the Jesus motif. Santa, is a pretty good stand in, if you ask me, and again, I'm not so sure Jesus would object. I don't see it as any kind of competition between the two. And you really do have to consider that. They already did that, after Jesus died. That is, to allow others, out side of their religion of Judaism or what was later called, Christianity, to join in, be involved, even if from some outside form. And it was a long and ugly battle within the Following.

You see, to become Christian, just after Jesus died, in those next hundred years or so, you had to become a Jew first, then you could be a Christian. That meant, you had to be circumcised, and eat by the Hebrew laws, and with the right people. And a Bris Milah, is not exactly an exciting consideration for any adult male. Paul helped to change all that, somewhat, with Peter's okay, but it was a hard fight to pull off. To allow those outside of the Hebrew faith, to even become Christians.

Again, a misnomer, as in the beginning, Christians were known as "Jesus Followers", that "Christ" related name came later. There is a new movement to be called a "Follower of Jesus" in order to relinquish some of the baggage associated with being called a "Christian". They're on the right track, namewise, anyway. Not to mention, when Jesus died, and "The End" didn't after all happen, the leaders of the Jesus Followers, had to scramble to find meaning in the old Hebrew texts, to explain what had happened, or more precisely, hadn't happened.

That was when they found the idea of all that we now hear about. The original Jesus Followers and later, Christians, were a sect developed from a building of considered, plotted out and manipulated concepts. But now in hindsight, no one sees that, no one educates themselves to know that, no one cares. These more modern followers, just want to "Have Faith". Kind of scary really. Strength in Ignorance, someone called it.

When I asked my Catholic mother years ago what she believed in and she told me what she thought her faith was about, I had to ask here, where she got that misguided concept from and she said, "My parents." When I pointed out that her lovely, but uneducated parents were markedly wrong, she just replied that her parents had taught her and she "believed." Talk about confused. But I see a lot of this with religious type people. They believe in what they believe in by what they were taught as children and that's the end of it. How much has been carried down to our times over 2,000 years, like this?

A couple of weeks later, when she had the parish Priest over for lunch and he heard this, he was shocked and told her directly that, "That is not what our religion teaches or is about." Do you have any idea how often that is a primary element in people's "Faith"? Think about that for a moment. I mean, my mother had it mostly correct, in general, but beyond that, she was clueless.

So, for Santa to take over for Jesus on Christmas Day, to bring goodness and happiness, cheer, and goodwill to men, and women, to give people a brief respite from their daily troubles, when otherwise they would never celebrate a Christian holiday, I mean, what's really wrong with that?

We have celebrated for a long time, on multiple continents with a Christmas tree. A symbol some have told me, is a nod to Jesus being born in a manger, more outside than in, as in a hotel, or someone's home. I've also heard it is a descendant of the "Paradise Tree" and the ornaments are replacements, originally as red balls, for the "Apple" that Eve picked and made some bad choice with in some way.

Wikipedia says: "The tradition still persists that Christmas trees should not be decorated until Christmas Eve, which is the day of Adam and Eve. Legends attribute the invention of the Christmas tree instead to Saint Boniface (c. 680 - 755), the Apostle of the Germans, and to Martin Luther." So, who knows, who really cares? It's fun, beautiful, warm and comforting, okay?

But really there is so much of the Paganistic involved here, absorbed by the Catholics and Christians in general, just as they absorbed December 25th to eradicate the Pagan Winter holiday and replace it with the other most potent day they could come up with, that of their Savior's alleged birthday. "It says in the Bible that Jesus was born before the sheep were sent out to pasture; no one sends their sheep out to graze in the winter." - Anonymous.

And so it goes on and on like this. But people simply prefer to have "Faith" than to understand what really happened way back when or how that affects them and the reality of their beliefs now. Okay, whatever, it's your prerogative but for myself, I would prefer to believe in and have faith in, what is true and right, than simply made up along the way. You know?

I have searched long and hard, through many religions over my lifetime, searching for knowledge, wisdom, and a religion that made any kind of sense to me at all. I have found that Buddha Dharma, the Buddha's Teachings, makes the most sense, to me. But there too, there has been much ritual and fantastic nonsense put to music in that belief system, as with any other out there. You can try to pick apart my Buddhist beliefs, but the difference is, as I gain more insight, it makes more sense, but as most all other religions go through that same process, they being quickly to fall apart. But that is neither here or there, for this discussion.

Buddha had said that if someone tells you something about the Buddha Dharma that makes no sense to you, you don't have to believe it; it is a way to keep His teachings more pure. As he obviously knew from observing Human behavior, over time people will take control of it for their own purposes, or expand on the truth to make more of it than there was, or was meant to be, or should be. He said to think for yourself. As opposed to Christian dynamics through the millennia of "listen and believe whatever you are told because it's so holy, you cannot disagree". To disagree is to burn in Hell for all eternity. And et cetera. That has led to so many atrocities I cannot count.

And so the Zen saying, "If you see the Buddha on the path of Life (Tao), kill him." It doesn't mean to actually kill him, but to not revere him so much that you lose sight of the Truth. Jesus' many followers have been patently doing that since the beginning.

Brief aside: Famous Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, had this Buddhist perspective to say on Christmas Eve Day:

No not this, the quote below....

 "In the Christian tradition, we learn that Jesus is the Son of God. It means that through Jesus you can touch the ultimate dimension, the ultimate reality, the ground of being, the almighty. We also learn that Jesus is the Son of Man. As the Son of Man, he belongs to the historical dimension where there is being and non-being, birth and death, sameness and otherness, good and evil. Notions that make us suffer. These can the foundation of our fear, anxiety, and suffering. But Jesus is not only the Son of Man, he is also the Son of God. If we get in touch with Jesus deeply enough, then we can see this ultimate dimension. We have to see Jesus as both. In the Buddhist tradition, it is very clear that everyone belongs to the historical dimension and we also belong to the ultimate dimension. This is our nature and we can learn to transcend our notions."

There is more to life than simply following what you think, are the right rules, and being closed minded. If ignorance and fear are the root causes of intolerance, there is obviously a lot of both around the world, and far too much in America.

Anyway, yes it might be nice to call the Christmas Holiday something else, as the phrase has so much baggage associated with it and Christians get so defensive about it. Though I'll grant you, not as bad as Muslims do with images of Mohammed, which are ludicrous. I mean really, if Mohammed heard you were killing people over a cartoon of him, do you really think he'd buy you a drink (okay, doesn't have to be alcohol, right?), yet alone, give you seventy-two virgins? And if that were the case, then basically, arguably by definition, that would make him quite the jerk.

Repeat after me, "We don't kill people, unless it is to stop them from trying to kill us." So, can we first get that one straight? Drawing a cartoon, is not, a killing offense. Nor are religious indiscretions, of any type (blasphemy, adultery, homosexuality, and so on).
The labarum, often called the Chi-Rho, is a Christian symbol representing Christ.

Christians have seen things like the spelling of "Christmas", as "Xmas" in being simply offensive. There is nothing wrong with being offended, there is with stepping over the line about it. It's been claimed that the "X" in "Xmas" was "crossing out", Christ. It's been said that in modern times "Wall Street", or the shop owners in the 1800s, are responsible for that secular attempt. But it's all quite untrue, and abbreviations like this have gone back as far as 1021AD, and by Christians themselves.

So, I would say to the "true believers" in Jesus, "come on, lighten up kids". Really, there is simply too much seriousness attributed to religious beliefs. Get out of the God of the Old Testament and into the newer one (that would be your Jesus, seriously, check out things he said, and not so much what everyone else has said down through the ages, be they his followers or leaders or not). Secular celebrations of Christmas, does do one thing, it brings the word, "Christmas", into the households and consciousness of many unbelievers and the worst thing ti really does, is to give people a momentary relief from life and a feeling of community, love and caring for one another.

Which is why, even as a kind of Buddhist, in the Western parlance, I have no problem with saying to you:

"Merry Christmas!" And may your life and the best of your wishes all come true for you, and your loved ones.

"Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you ... to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old ... Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world ... stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death... Then you can keep Christmas! But you can never keep it alone." - Henry van Dyke

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