It’s Christmastime ~ Bang That Drum


Christmastime and the winter holidays invoke sensations that could be labeled anything from anxious and fearful, to joy and warmth, or even indifference. When you break it down, as we do in inquiry, it’s all perception–with an overlay of personal meaning. The taste of nut-buttery cookies; the scent of pine; the vision of colored lights that glow everywhere in these long, dark nights; the sounds of voices singing; and the touch of friends and family who come to share all of this. The perceptions themselves are neutral. We give them all the meaning they have for us. Hence, there are Scrooges and there are jolly old Saint Nicks, and everything in between.

For as long as I can remember, there has been the ongoing discussion of the “true meaning” of Christmas, how this not-really-agreed-upon meaning is overshadowed by commercialism and the glaring poverty of those who are unable to even participate in the excess of consumption. Tiny Tim and the Little Drummer Boy weigh in on the side of that spirit of Christmas that has nothing to do with money, though the Madison Avenue contribution is a very loud drumbeat, if not a deafening roar.

It is, officially and nominally, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Not everyone who celebrates goes to church, but many do pay homage, in their own private ways, to the underlying message of love, forgiveness, and peace on Earth.

It could be said that the last temptation of Christ was, metaphorically and literally, bearing witness to his humanness, in giving up his personal will to live and die as a man. As men and women we have no other choice but to celebrate this humanness–because we live as human beings. We can come to see both the divinity and the humanity in life, by forgiving and honoring the differences in expression that are the foundation and inexorable beauty of our fleeting personhood. The inclusion and acceptance of both, of all the contrasts is the miracle. Nothing less than the whole enchilada will do.

There’s going to be no exhortation here to live or celebrate one way or another, no plea to “love one another.” Buy big-ticket items, or ladle out food in soup kitchens. Neither one makes for a morally superior person. They’re both expressions of giving that seem to go along with the-not-really-agreed-upon meaning of Christmas. All else is opinion, that which divides and separates. Opinions are also part of this, though held lightly as opposed to fiercely.

If we can’t agree upon the true meaning of Christmas, perhaps we can agree to dispense with all judgment, and certainly any judgment about those who, either by choice or religious affiliation, do not celebrate it at all. If we refuse to give in to the temptation of believing that there is a right way to do Christmas–or anything else–then there can be no wrong, or not-quite-right way. This is how conflict is born, and world and personal peace are thereby sacrificed. We can refuse the temptation to judge in the same way that Christ refused temptation in the desert–all appeals that succumb to human frailty and neediness are responded to with trust, and the unwavering commitment to that which sustains us.

Or we simply surrender to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and the feel of the season. These freely-given and always-present perceptions are all we ever have. That is the celebration. There is no other to judge in this or any other regard. Whether the sights and sounds evoke joy, sorrow, or grumpiness, may you embrace (hug) it all, and may peace be with you in the midst of Christmastime, wintertime, and in all the seasons of (your) life. I bang this drum with solemn yet gay reverence for all the beats that have ever contributed to the symphony and cacophony that is this life. Bang that drum, however the spirit moves. There’s the meaning, whatever it means, however it manifests. Shall I play for you?

LIsten: Little Drummer Boy ~ Jars of Clay

Holly and Mistletoe

The Enneagram, Core Stories, and Forgiveness

There is this belief, resulting in recurring suffering in relation to, what is referred to in these circles as the core deficiency story. No one comes to the inquiries looking for the “brilliant genius,” or the “devoted peacemaker.” This makes sense in the same way psychologists do not tend to see fully integrated, content individuals. The concern here is with the concept of the inevitability, or necessity, of eventually meeting that core root of suffering and its attendant identification as if it were a requisite, necessarily painful, and therefore noble, right of passage.

When we overlay the Enneagram on this trend, what is implied is divisive differences, mainly towards the negative connotation. Fours are hopelessly dramatic, fives are frustratingly mental, and so on. Our defense mechanisms are maddeningly consistent, and ultimately at the source of all inner and outer conflict. Our compensatory style is the way we erroneously assume to protect ourselves from the world, and it is what others find to be difficult about us in relationship. It is the card you wear on your forehead in this game/life of Liars’ Poker. We cannot see it, yet we lead with it in all our interactions. Others can quite clearly see it–it’s right there on your forehead–and relate to us accordingly.

The suggestion here is to level the playing field of such divisive differences–by simply stopping, right here and right now, and fully accepting our own inherent human frailty, in whatever way that manifests in our interactions with the world, thereby creating a more compassionate and utilitarian perception of that world, and the people who appear in it. For instance, “So it seems that I am overly needy (or distant, or unreasonable) in my relations with others.” Then go from this insight/confession, to something as simple as, “Ah, there it is.” One need not be a grasping drama queen, nor a cold-hearted son of a—, or an unmitigated tyrant. See that this doesn’t imply an overarching, fixed and unacceptable identity, but simply a quirky proclivity to respond, a perceptual filter. The implication of the core story is that we will meet, just past the gates of hell, our festering inner nemesis and wrestle with it mightily until it is vanquished, and forever laid to rest (dramatic overlay added by this sometimes-four author). In short, the assumption is–there will be blood. Must we hang ourselves from a cross for our apparent sins?

“Yeah, I kinda suck at that” is an astonishingly simple yet profoundly forgiving way to view the way we show up in this comic-tragic play. We all come up short, one way or another. Knowing and allowing this is how we see we’re all in this together. Not all personal defense styles, such as despots and serial killers, will be subsumed under the designation of quirky, but there’s definitely a core deficiency story in there somewhere that was not inquired into, nor accepted.

The other side of the coin is to see these idiosyncratic proclivities as gifts–not as lifelong curses, but as the offerings we give back to the world. We do not have to do battle with our theoretical disabilities if we are willing to see the inherent strength or talent that is hidden just underneath. Perhaps Shakespeare was a four, Einstein was a five, and Mother Theresa was a two. Go with whatever is annoying about yourself, rather than suffer interminably in the role of misfit.

In relationship, use the acceptance of your own “failings” to happily allow others to be exactly as they are. See the strengths and talents that are barely obscured behind their best defense. Our core stories can all too easily become another’s deal breaker, and vice versa. The reversal of this perception is called forgiveness–the capacity and willingness to see beyond appearances–and it begins at home. Look right at the one you love, or the one you cannot tolerate (often one and the same?), and see that the love you feel for the first is what the latter desperately needs. Both reveal the world as it is, within and without. Remove the Ace of Spades from your forehead, and stand naked before kings and jokers alike. Thy kingdom come.