Christmas, the rebirth of the sun and other thoughts

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It’s Christmas Eve, the day and night before the number one holiday in America. The U.S. economy revolves around this holiday, more than any other because “We” will do about 25% of our spending preparing and “celebrating” this holiday. I put “We” and “celebrating” in quotes for all the usual reasons. As a collective unit, we American citizens spend a lot of money for this holiday. Food, decorations, travel arrangements and oh yeah, gifts.

Celebrating, well I guess that’s open to interpretation. Maybe a nice, quiet meal with loved ones, or maybe spending half the day at a homeless facility feeding those that are much less fortunate.

The writer with his sister in Texas, Christmas 2018 (Tim Forkes)

Last year I spent the holidays in Texas with family. It was a great joy — and at times overwhelming. I haven’t been around that many kids in … a few years so I was ill-prepared for the excitement.

My sister and I got into a very short political dispute, but that was squashed quickly by others. One of the best moments happened when she and I had her house to ourselves and we lined up a dozen or so Grateful Dead songs on YouTube, streaming though her big flat screen and surround sound system, and danced, danced, danced. As rickety old people can only dance. But when it comes to the Dead it ain’t the form, it’s the why and spirit.

I may be old but I got to see the Grateful Dead more times than I can count — and with several different keyboard players over the years.

  • Just an aside: As I was looking for a good Grateful Dead video on YouTube, I spied an interview with renaissance man Henry Rollins … which then led to another then another and then some Rollins Band videos. An hour later I’m thinking “I gotta get back to this post.”

Celebrating the holidays, well that goes back thousands of years, predating Christ. It was originally meant to celebrate the Winter Solstice, which just passed on December 21. The nights are long, and this year cold and wet. Possibly due to the climate crisis, colder and wetter. We are expecting rain through December 26. That means this Christmas might include mudslides for some Californians.

Stonehenge ay Sunset
(Jeffrey Pfau/Wikipedia)

Stonehenge, in case you didn’t know, points to the setting sun of the Winter Solstice.

Now we are fully into the rebirth of the sun, although this morning when I took the dogs for a walk at 6:30 a.m. it was still a bit dark outside. Much of that had to do with the thick rain clouds overhead, but still.

The days will continue to get longer, more hours of sunlight and then on March 8 we get to “Spring Forward!” For Daylight Savings Time, one of the most ridiculous practices — now customs — that have hung on since the Nixon Administration.

Anyway it’s roughly 8 a.m. and there is a small break in the clouds revealing the rays of the new rising sun … which reminds me spiritual guide Ram Dass passed away December 22. Formerly known as Dr. Richard Alpert, one of the Harvard LSD researchers, with Dr. Timothy Leary, in the process of trying to use chemical hallucinogens to achieve a spiritual effect, Alpert found his true calling and religion in India, reborn by the light of his guru Neem Karoli Baba (Maharaji). Ram Dass returned to the United States in 1972, eventually settling on Maui, Hawai’i.

Ram Dass (Richard Alpert) “Love, Serve, Remember” (Ram Dass Instagram)

Several people I know have been influenced by him, in varying degrees. Although Ram Dass had several best-selling books that would have made him very rich, he eschewed the trappings of materialism, putting the majority of his book profits back into his foundations, Seva and Hanuman. He probably lived comfortably. I’ve never met him or been to his home, but one can eschew materialism and live comfortably.

This brings me back to Jesus Christ, the reason for the Season, as the saying goes. Actually there are a few reasons for the season, but let’s stick with this spiritual one. Ram Dass lived that same lifestyle as Jesus; both could have used their considerable influence for self-aggrandizement, but instead chose a path centered on being of service to their communities. The spirit of giving was about selfless acts, not giving others expensive gifts. But where would we be as a society without those billions of dollars fueling the American economy?

The sun has now pushed through the clouds and given us a bright morning. It’s a good time to take advantage of the moment and praise the beauty around us. Have a Happy Holiday ever day.

Top photo of the Crystal Pier, San Diego, CA, by Tim Forkes