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Look for the Star in Your Life
|by Rajesh Williams|
During Christmas time, almost all the shopping centers and malls in Delhi and the National Capital Region wear a dazzlingly prosperous look—most of the shops are decorated with colored lights, Christmas trees, cut-outs of Santa Claus, tinsel, shiny glass balls and what have you. This newly received makeover builds up an atmosphere of conviviality and enjoyment; as a result, footfall increases, shops are busy and business looks up—as it normally does during all major festivals.
The sense of well-being that prevails in our commercial world indicates that Christmas is no longer an all-Christian festival; it belongs to everyone. People flock to these malls, celebrating Christmas in their own special way: eating, drinking, splurging or indulging in a little window shopping. Music and soft murmur of people fill the merry air. It’s Christmas time again! But no sooner New Year festivities are over than most of us are back to our humdrum world with a faint remembrance of the good times spent with friends and relatives; business also slows down a bit. Christmas once again becomes just another date on the calendar.
Not only after the festive season, but also amid the general festivities few pause for a while to ponder over the true spirit of Christmas. There is a general perception that Christmas is a festival when the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated on the twenty-fifth of December; that many go to church on Christmas day; that Christmas is a time when people have a holiday from school or work; that shops do brisk business during the Christmas week; and that people buy presents, have cakes and drinks, decorate their houses, have a Christmas tree and spend time with their families at Christmas. But what truly is the spirit of Christmas—that is the question.
Charles Dickens warmly answers this question in one of his Christmas stories:
Christmas symbolizes love, kindness and charity—a genuine concern for others. When we show warmth and affection to others we become stronger and wiser; when we light a lamp for another it illuminates our path as well. The Christmas spirit lived in Mother Teresa’s heart every day of the year. There is an Arab proverb that sums up the spirit of Christmas: If you have much, give of your wealth; if you have little, give of your heart. How true! Jesus is the epitome of love and compassion, for he gave his life so that we could have everlasting life. The life of Jesus teaches us that we must not base our lives on things transitory—things like name, fame and wealth, for they arrive and depart like a gust of wind. We must base our lives on the virtues of love, compassion and generosity.
Christmas also teaches us that we came into being not always to do, but sometimes simply to be. More often than not we end up spending our lives on acquiring things; we try to fill our lives with more and more things, not realizing that we are, in effect, giving little importance to ourselves. So we pack our lives with action—just like Herod. The story of the Nativity aptly underscores the disadvantage of leading an extremely busy life. This is why it is germane to present-day conditions.
Herod did not see the star because his life was too full of action; like most of us, he had filled every moment of his life with action and did not have the time to sit and watch the stars. His heart was hard, for we do not see him presenting gifts to anyone, not even the wise men who gave him the information he wanted. In contrast, the wise men keenly observed the things around them; they also made time to make that long, slow journey across the desert. And their hearts were not hard, for they presented gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus. The wise men were simple, authentic people.
Today's action-obsessed society is populated by hollow men—people leading meaningless lives. According to the story of the Nativity, happiness lies in leading a truly authentic life. We seldom enjoy the lives we are living and lose ourselves in work, thinking that ‘action’ would eventually lead us to happiness; we wait for happiness to come along, but it never comes, just like Godot. So we must find out what specifically triggers the feeling of delight in our daily lives. It could be good food, reading classics, answering emails, or grasping a new idea. Consider your personal preferences, identify them and then embrace moments of joy that are uniquely your own. Immense joy lies in savoring authentic moments, for they bring a smile to our faces and contentment to our hearts. When did you last experiment with a new cake recipe or take time to gently arrange a bouquet of flowers to appreciate their fragrance and color? Sip a cup of tea while reading the morning newspaper or the novel you purchased at the used-books bazaar at Daryagunj or pause for a while to pet your lovely dog. What fun! What pleasure! Go for simple pleasures; they are waiting to be enjoyed.
Many complain that they are stuck in a rut, but few make efforts to get out of it—to let the real man or woman in them emerge. Lost in this sensual music, most of us forget to give creativity a chance. Elaborating on one of the ways to idea-condition the mind, Jack Forster advises us to get out of our rut and “learn how to see.” In his book How To Get Ideas, he writes:
Look for the ‘star’ in your life.
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