My sister’s Xmas family lunch is an important annual event for me; round a festive table, with a dozen relatives from three generations – celebrating each other’s stories; for all families, a meaningful ritual worth extra effort. But our tribe assembles from ten different households – so that’s not going to happen; my first reaction was to cancel Xmas.
Some like to think of ourselves as ‘rationalists’ who are free from superstitious practices – but we should not underestimate the human need for spiritual symbols and ideas. Since recorded history, tribal rituals have enabled our survival – shaped our civilisations. So, I’m going to make a particular effort this year to honour the ‘fiesta’: cards, fairy lights, holly wreath – the lot. I’ll arrange a few ‘one to one’ celebrations.
Neighbour pops in to use my computer, with granddaughter (Emma, nearly one). While ‘nanna’ types, I have a few minutes alone with the wee one, who is fed and content; we stare at each other with Buddhist half smiles. From her eyes, I sense that Emma sees a whole world that I’ve lost touch with; I see beauty, innocence, kindness; that she believes in magic and joy; I sense an invitation to play. I realise again, that looking into a child’s eyes, we can see the spiritual dimension – the soul.
The Christmas story we tell ourselves, about an iconic baby symbolising new hope and renewal, is very powerful; it feels ‘primordial’ – touching the very ground of our being; it delivers my main hope from the festive season: it restores my soul.
I woke on Wednesday to the news that over 80s may be offered a Covid vaccine before Xmas; my hesitancy is dismissed by my almost ‘reverence’ for our NHS – I’ll go when summoned. I continuously reflect on the potential if this years’ disruptions to change aspects of our society – the poverty/inequality of our times is shameful. Although The SNP can appear left-wing compared to London Tories, Scottish economic policy is essentially conservative; whilst it’s ‘housetrained’ rather than ‘warlord’ capitalism, the creation of a post-capitalist ‘wellbeing’ economy remains distant. In this article, six commentators predict life after Covid – in six themes: Cities. Interaction, Science, Politics, Culture, Work. Once again – essentially conservative expectations.
Of course, there’ll be a deal with the EU, Polly Toynbee writes in the Guardian, there’s no alternative – but it’s not going to be the delusional ‘have your cake and eat it’. Finally, ministers will have to face up to the futility of what they’ve done – that their Brexit campaign was based on fantasies (what used to be called ‘lies’).
The SNP can assume the bulk of the credit for advancing the cause of Scottish independence – but, with Joyce McMillan, I believe the movement now needs a broader, cross-party driver. And should the SNP convincingly win next year’s election/plebiscite, we should petition our law courts to rule on the ‘sovereignty’ of the Scottish people’s decision.
I try to have an open dialogue with my (many) prejudices – and I’m not anti-police; but there’s a lack of trust – too much hostility between the Scottish public and our police force. The public inquiry begins this week into the death of Kirkaldy man, Sheku Bayoh (31), who died in 2015, following restraint by several police officers.
I read the pandemic being referred to as a ‘collective near-death experience’ – which is pretty much how I feel about it. Whilst I recall almost nothing of what I dream – I found this Conversation article interesting – bits of research on how Covid has affected our dreams – the mental health benefits of discussing dreams.
I love the mind/soul of Rumi, the greatest of the Sufis. I wonder if he was familiar with the Tao Te Ching concept of ‘doing not doing’.
‘When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of distress and anxiety; If I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and without any pain. From this I understand that what I want also wants me, is looking for me and attracting me. There is a great secret in this for anyone who can grasp it…Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent. Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.’