December 7, 2004

I apologize for my five-day absence from these pages. Among other things, I’m working to get up a whole new site structure that has better compatiblity with more browsers. It will also allow more extensive participation and interaction — since I’m sure there is a lot of good thinking and writing to be done by several of you who frequent this site. In the meantime, here are excerpts from a Christmas article I wrote not too long ago.

“Some can and some cannot enjoy the lights, music, special programs, parties, gifts. Some enjoy them but find that the pleasure does not carry over into the rest of life. There is a variety of reasons making December a painful time of year for people. And for some this is the first December that will be terribly painful, but it will set the tone for years to come.”

“A student of mine who works in an emergency room recently wrote, ‘Christmas is a hard time of year for most people because of torn, broken relationships and emotionally distant families. Loneliness is the actual theme of the season …. December is not Christmas lights and candy canes: instead it is chemicals and cries for help.’ ‘A child’s innocent faith in the magic of Christmas morning is broken over years of disenchantment.'”

“In my philosophy class last week we talked about success, happiness, and fulfillment. One student read a quote from Benjamin Franklin. “Happiness depends more on the inward Disposition of mind than on the outward Circumstances.” So I asked whether they agreed with that. Heads nodded. “Really? Do you really believe that?” They were serious. They agreed with it. Franklin does not tell us the “outward Circumstances” carry no weight. They can carry a lot of weight indeed. But he says “the inward Disposition of mind” is even more influential.

“So I want to make a suggestion – that we try to pull back a little, each one of us, from the mania, or the pain, of the season. Pull back to see how we could in fact harvest some happiness from these holidays.” ….

“I’m not telling you what kind of a holiday season to have. But I believe that there is happiness available even in this time of increased stress.”