“I searched for God and found only myself. I searched for myself and found only God.” Rumi
Soon, the snow will cascade from the December sky, adorning trees that sparkle with shimmering lights on branches that seemingly spread like open arms as if to beckon blessings from above. And I, subdued with holiday cheer and even a little bit of jeer, recall memories of doves and wondering if the world will ever succumb to peace and love. So I began to ponder about what Christmas really means, at least to me.
I am not here to harangue you on the true meaning of Christmas, I am simply offering my understanding of this most wondrous time of year. You may or may not identify with me, but hopefully you will. You see, Christmas to me is about more than just ceremony. It is about more than the money we spend to impress our loved ones. Christmas to me is about celebrating life, family, and community. It’s about enjoying one another’s company and appreciating each other’s humanity. And by humanity, I mean both positive and negative characteristics that make us all who we are. Anyone can love someone who loves you back, but the real challenge is to love someone who hates your guts.
Some of us may not be aware of this, but often our love is conditional. And I include myself in this category. How many times have you find yourself falling out of love with someone because you suddenly discover that they are (taking a deep breath) “human” and therefore “broken?” We are all broken pearls along the road. We have all said or done things that intentionally or unintentionally hurt one another. We have all been cursed or blessed with being unequivocally HUMAN! After all, a common colloquialism during the colonial settlements in America was: “In Adams fall, we sinned all…”
In the age of Trumpism, this Christmas season lets us celebrate humanism. I am learning to embrace this revelation of human imperfection to negate any prior illusions. I have since reasoned to look to someone greater than myself and my fellow human travelers for unrestricted love. It was at that time that I gleefully looked to a higher spiritual power for eternal and unconditional love. “I searched for God and found only myself. I searched for myself and found only God” as earnestly stated by the renowned Persian poet Rumi; to which I whole heartedly concur. When it comes to who we love, we ought not to limit ourselves to the contiguous few, only those who are closest to us like our families; that would perpetrate a fallacious notion of disconnectedness with each other; that my actions can’t affect you and your actions can’t affect me. However that is a fallacy with which I don’t agree. You most likely heard the phrase “six degrees of separation”? or how about “if your neighbors bed is on fire, wet yours…” Essentially we all affect each other and we are someway somehow connected whether we are cognizant of it or not.
In the age of Trumpism, this Christmas season let us celebrate humanism. This ideology is further affirmed by Albert Einstein, who declared that, “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” In other words, we are all connected so let us all be united by this wise notion.
In the age of Trumpism, this Christmas season let us celebrate humanism. This brings me to speculating about the true meaning of Christmas. I truly believe that we can all find happiness with one another, granted that we do this one thing: learning to accept one another because of our humanity and not in spite of it; celebrate rather than castigate each other for our differences; recognize that we are all like the crayons in a child’s Crayola box, each color brings its own vibrant gift to evoke a colorful image of the motley human art form.
In the age of Trumpism, this Christmas season let us celebrate humanism. Growing up partly in Haiti for the first decade of my life, in the middle Port-au-Prince city, I remember when the government used to have Christmas for the kids in the Haitian White House. I remember the first time I heard of Santa Clause, except in Haiti, he is called “Papa Noel.” I remember being in total awe of Papa Noel. I thought that he was this magical being who was going to rescue me from the growing pains of my childhood and enhance the moments of joy. But now, all these years later, I am trying to rekindle my fascination with the holiday season. As I walk around town at night, I bask in the glitter of the glimmering trees and exuberant smiles on the people’s faces and I start thinking about what Christmas really means.
In the age of Trumpism, this Christmas season let us celebrate humanism. The true meaning of Christmas for me is essentially love yourself and one another as you are; knowing that you and your life are “perfect” in the eyes of God. In the words of the ubiquitous motivational speaker and spiritualist Wayne Dyer: “Everything is perfect in the universe, even our desire to change it.” The true meaning of Christmas is not about out doing your neighbor’s Christmas decorations, or buying the most expensive gift for your loved ones. At the threat of getting too syrupy, the true meaning of Christmas should be about lending a smile to someone who bears a frown, offering a hug to someone in tears, and providing food and shelter to someone in need. The true meaning of Christmas is about seeing one another as family and not as enemies. Don’t let the melanin in your neighbor’s skin determine whether or not he/she is worthy of your respect. Don’t let the size of your bank account or family breeding determine your worth or your neighbor’s worth.
In the age of Trumpism, this Christmas season let us celebrate humanism. The true meaning of Christmas is seeing one another as one. As our nation’s first president George Washington once said about the American colonies: “We are one.” The true meaning of Christmas is about celebrating our legacies not deficiencies. It’s about fraternity and diversity, not hostility and bigotry; collaboration not division; it’s about being giving, joyful, and thankful for what we have and not what we don’t have. Finally, it’s about the beauty and miracle of creation: the birth of Jesus Christ.
In the age of Trumpism, this Christmas season let us celebrate humanism. Even I struggle with these issues every day, so I speak from experience. I come face to face with anger and prejudice constantly, partly due to negative societal conditioning. I too am affected by my own fallible “humanity”. But I constantly aim to eschew negative thought patterns to reflect a healthier approach. You may not always be able to dictate your thoughts but you can dictate your actions. You can CHOOSE to act on your “loving” thoughts rather than your “hateful” ones, especially during these times, the age of Trumpism, when hate crimes against racial and religious minorities (e.g. Blacks, Jewish and Muslims) have substantially increased by at least 30 percent according the latest statistical data.
I use the following mantra: “Be a source of love and light in the face of prejudice and hatred.” And only then will you finally learn the true meaning of Christmas. Joeux Noel et Bonne Anne a tous (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All)!
Jacques Fleury is the author of Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir and It’s Always Sunrise Somewhere and Other Stories.
Mark Blickley a proud member of the Dramatist Guild and PEN American Center. Katya Shubova is a photographer and international tango dancer.