T’is the season when overindulgence is the norm. We are blessed in America by having access to large quantities of everything we want. As I like to say, ‘this is America, we have more of everything.” The good and the bad. And for that we should be extremely grateful. Just spend an hour watching late night television and you’ll see a parade of sad appeals for homeless people, hungry and sick children, abandoned and abused pets, and veteran’s support organizations of various degrees of authenticity.
After spending an hour watching the sad and tearful eyes, the pained expressions, and the great unwashed masses of homeless, if you can remain ungrateful, then you should expect a visit on 12/24/19 from the Ghost of Christmas Future. For my part, those long form commercials at this time of year are a stark reminder of all that I have to be grateful for. I have a job, a home, friends, my health and a future that is bright.
This is the point of the holiday season to me. It’s a time to reflect upon the many blessings of family and community. As I head into my annual retreat away from the world of 24 hour access by phone and email, as I step into a world that is less chaotic and frenetic, I use this time to pause, reflect and recharge. In the emotionally taxing world of family law, taking a break from everyone else’s emotional turmoil is crucial to my mental health.
I’m headed south to a warmer climate where I will be laying out poolside as I recover from a busy year, and prepare for an even more productive year in 2020. So I’m taking a writing break for the next three weeks.
This is my last column for 2019 and I wanted to thank all the readers who commented over the past year for their feedback – it is appreciated. As we enter the final days of 2019, here’s a wrap up of what’s coming.
Chanukah starts this coming Sunday and lasts for eight nights. The Jewish Festival Of Lights has changed over the years from a simple religious observance to an event for children to be showered gifts and love. Some sects still keep it fairly simple while others have a more secular view and enjoy the shopping, food and fun that accompanies the nights of remembrance. I am not Jewish, though as a lawyer named David, I am frequently presumed to be. The closest I’ve come to being Jewish, is working as a camp counselor as a teen at Temple Akiba in Culver City. Those were fun times.
In the middle of Chanukah comes Christmas, the neo-Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus that has its roots in the Pagan Winter Solstice festivals. The Solstice falls on 12/21, and is the shortest day of the year and the longest night which is good for vampires I suppose. Christmas too has gone through an evolution (sorry fundamentalists I know how you despise that word) from a religious to a markedly commercial event that for many has lost its purpose and meaning. Thankfully it has retained some of the “goodwill towards others” that makes this a more enjoyable, collegial and sociable time.
Just as Christmas is winding down, Kwanzaa is starting up. The African American holiday that was started in 1966 to commemorate the diaspora of Africans is supposed to embody seven core principles and starts on the 26th and goes to January 1.
These three main holidays all have as an operating principle peace, love and remembrance. As important as they are to celebrate for each of their adherents, it is important for the wider society to respect them. I have never celebrated Kwanzaa, because I’ve never been invited to a celebration. I’d go in a heartbeat, just as I have to a Chanukah night’s dinner and lighting of the candles.
The world needs us to all be more accepting. This is when we can practice it. We can learn more about each other, and find our common ground. There is a lot of it you know. We have more in common than in conflict. And the conflicts are mostly made by politicians to increase their own wealth, power, and control. I say this having watched many a documentary about how in the state of Israel, Jews and Muslims have lived next door to each other, intermarried and managed to find a path forward. It is the politicians who stoke the fears, increase the hate, and destroy the basic humanity of their followers in order to be elected.
It doesn’t have to be that way, and every holiday season is a reminder that we can do better. There is a way to remember that feeling of compassion and love for each other throughout the year. There are two words that set out an entire theological and social structure, that establish the basic rules of a civil world. It is so simple that I fear most people won’t get it.
I learned the two words many years ago, probably at a summer camp or perhaps in a church, but the true value of them was not made known to me until I studied spirituality and came across the most unlikely of teachers in that arena, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. He said, “my religion is summed up in the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer. ‘Our Father’.”
At first I was confused, but upon closer study, I realized he’s right. The entire relationship between me and God/Higher Power/Spirit of the Universe is established as a parent child relationship. The use of “our” creates my relationship to everyone else in the world – siblings, equals. That means I should treat everyone as a family member.
I take no credit for this insight, I cribbed it from others. But that doesn’t diminish its value or impact on me.
So with that said I wish everyone a Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanzaa and whatever else you celebrate. I’ll be back in January, till then, eat too much, love too hard, and forgive that idiot in the parking lot – they don’t mean to be that annoying.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at email@example.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra