This is a holiday message I posted on AlansForums.com for my community. I wanted to express it to my subscribers here, as well:
I looked back 52 weeks (hard to believe) and found I couldn’t really improve on what I wrote then at Christmas, especially in view of what we’ve been through globally with pandemic and locally with politics. I believe this is even more true today. Montesquieu, the great French political philosopher and judge, wrote The Spirit of the Laws, which I had to read in college. This book is said to have had more of an impact on the Founding Fathers in the US than any other. And in it, Montesquieu emphasized that the one characteristic that was absolutely key to freedom and liberty is virtue.
This is a festive time of year. Christmas, which is not the great Christian Holiday (Easter is) is a time of joy, paralleled by Hanukkah. And, of course, Christmas has become a secular holiday, where non-believers also rejoice in gift exchange, reunited family, time off work, and (one hopes) general feelings of good will.
We all watch Christmas movies and listen to Christmas songs. We all shop, and exchange gifts, and marvel at “Black Friday” and the volume of UPS and FedEx parcels, and the growing online purchasing power.
There’s nothing wrong and everything right about rejoicing. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in God or not. What matters, however, is good will toward others. There’s something hugely wrong with being rude while purchasing Christmas gifts! There’s something wrong with trying to outdo the neighbors with lighting, or to have the biggest tree in the neighborhood.
The basis of all the great religions, I believe, is tolerance and forgiveness, despite the distortions that result from zealots and bigotry where religion is used as the excuse for heinous actions, from the auto de fé to jihad. Tolerance and forgiveness have always struck me as passive, in response to an act or behavior. Therefore, I would add generosity to the mix.
We can be generous with our time, energy, resources, information, coaching, and attention, as well as with money. I think it was Samuel Johnson who said that an act of charity should be defined not by how much one gives, but by how much one has left after giving. It’s easy to write a check, it’s not as easy to invest your time.
My suggestion for this Holiday Season is to share your “wealth,” no matter how you define it. If we cared more for each other, we’d do less advertent and inadvertent harm. And that includes family, not just friends and acquaintances.
So, in the true spirit of the times, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Maria, Bentley, Coco, and me. May you make others happy and better, thus improving yourself. We wish you a safe, healthy, peaceful, and prosperous future.