Monday, December 31, 2007

39 Months

Christmas was wonderful this year! I say that with enthusiasm because I'm not really the most ardent supporter of the festive holidays these days, but events unfolded very pleasantly this year. Both Xtina and I are hesitant to embrace social programming of the sort that bombards our senses to the extent that we feel obligated to participate. We're much more interested in sharing genuine experiences that unfold naturally and humanely, not preordained to benefit us in a specific manner. Christmas is always the number one culprit when it comes to making us feel that our experiences are less than sincere when it comes to capitalistic cheer. It's hard for us to get into the holiday spirit when the foundation of our social experience revolves around spending a shitload of money on a bunch of crap.

(Yes, we did receive some items that would fit into that category)

What I recall of the christmas wonder is hectic nights chasing the shouts from our lips as my cousins and I raced around the house trying to embody that emblazoned joyful spirit that winked wholeheartedly at the stars, embracing all the new things I learned throughout the year with the beautiful realization that I was growing and becoming and developing and living for another wondrous cycle, feeling the warmth of familial laps and shining eyes that regarded me with love and arms and soft cheeks and beautifully familiar aromas and succulent meals and warmth and warmth and warmth, hoping that the future would be as amazing as everyone believed in their hearts for this one moment in time regardless what was truly happening outside the dark windows around us.

When people ask me what I remember about the holidays, I never think about the gifts. Sure I can see my self tearing at wrapping paper like a banshee with the scream of need howling out all other sounds, but I honestly can't think of more than two or three presents that actually stayed with me for longer than a few days. I don't have one of those gifts with me today, they are all spent.

It's so hard to think about this time of year and try to bring some perspective to my relationship with my son. Lucas is so attuned to everything around him now that the idea of explaining the spirit of christmas seemed like such an incredible task, and I still don't have an ultimate solution to this dilemma. But Lucas has such a beautiful soul that he lifts my spirit even when the doldrums of the holidays creep into our mundane comfortable lives.

Just a couple of images from this holiday season have really stuck with me:

When we opened presents, Lucas didn't tear at his wrapping like a madman. He chose who should open a gift and watched patiently while that person indulged in their fortune. We took our time with this ritual of exchange because we have a lifetime to share with one another, there is no limit to what we can give. Then after everything had been opened, Lucas dove into the giant pile of wrapping paper and swam beneath the depths like an aquatic being, his real presents sitting untouched on a nearby table.

On christmas eve we went shopping for a gift that Lucas would receive from santa at the pavco christmas celebration. Santa is a holiday concept that we fretted over. How to explain santa to him without lying or diminishing the magical aspect of it or creating false hope? We wanted to be honest with him but we also wanted him to fully share in beautiful spirit behind the metaphor of santa, to embrace and cherish the people around you. So we decided that we should let Lucas choose his santa gift himself. But another obstacle ahead of us was that he was actually a little bit afraid of the jolly old man (who isn't at first?). So in order to help him become comfortable with it Xtina suggested that daddy should be santa this year. Lucas' reluctance to jumping on santa's lap vanished once she made this suggestion. So how could I say no. I dressed up in the red suit and handed out gifts to all the little ones. Lucas even gave santa a kiss when it was all over.

Which brings me to the last wonderful vision of this holiday season. Tonight, after sharing a wonderful meal and hanging out with Xtina's family, Lucas decided that he was going to hand out gifts to everyone. He took our napkins and wrapped up miscellaneous items from around the room and went around to give everyone their presents. He told them that he was santa and that he was bringing them gifts for the holiday season.

Oh, the beauty of our child! His heart is so full that at three-years-old he already knows the real meaning of santa and christmas. If only the rest of our society did as well.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Familjen - Det snurrar i min skalle

The Greatest Video Ever Made!

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

38 Months

(Lucas and Uncle Rick at Thanksgiving)

Recently, we watched a movie called "Paris Je T'aime", which gathers a bunch of famous filmmakers to give their quick take the magical city in France. Some of the short films, all of which were around five minutes long, made a deeper impact on me than others, which is bound to happen given the diverse nature of humanity. It made for an interesting evening catching small glimpses into Paris.

One of the movies was called "Place des Victories" by the filmmaker Nobuhiro Sawa. Before I became a parent this film would have fluttered past with hardly a thought beyond bland but since I now live with a burgeoning three-year-old, I began to feel goosebumps crawling along my skin as the story unfolded. Basically, it's about a woman trying to deal with the death of her son and the emotional grief that consumes and cripples her life. It actually wasn't really a good movie and resorted to cheap cliches to convey resolution, but just the thought of being in her situation caused me to become emotionally invested in the story.

No parent should have to bury their child, right? That's the way the saying goes. It's against the natural rhythm of life for a parent to watch their children die. Yet, everyday children die for various reasons beyond our human control and many others die needlessly because of various circumstances. War, natural catastrophe, disease, curable disease, environmental contamination, simple neglect. Every day there are parents who suffer around the world because of the loss of a child, the ultimate fear of all who have held their own baby in their arms.

So what can we do? I look at Lucas every day and feel such a strong familial connection that I can't imagine life without him. In Buddhism, the basic tenet that is fundamentally entwined with all of life is the law of cause and effect, which is symbolized by the image of the lotus flower because it blossoms and seeds at the exact same moment. It's the idea that everything that occurs in life comes about because of a cause that was made in the infinite past, that everything we do makes an impact on our lives and the world at large, now and in the future. Where I am at this very moment is due to decisions that I made in the past or from decisions that were made for me before I was even capable of making decisions, and where I want to be tomorrow...well, that's the wonder of it all. I have the power to create the future that I want by making certain choices today and I have that same power when it comes to my children.

I've been thinking about a defining moment in my life when I was in the fifth grade. I was involved in my first real conflict that escalated into the realm of physical supremacy. Another boy my age and I were going to fight, a good old-fashioned school yard brawl. Up to that point in my life, I had never been in a real fight beyond the occasional disagreements that you have with close friends but it never actually crossed into the realm of put-your-dukes-up action. But, at that specific moment I felt the vitality of the action we were taking. It was a rite of passage cultural moment, I could feel it humming within my body with the heat in my blood. It was THE conflict moment of my youth. How would I respond?

I remember it all very clearly. I took the first shot. My arm moved away from my body in what seemed like slow-motion. My clenched fist rose up and touched his cheek, followed by the solid connection of bone on bone. A revulsion, a sick feeling of dismay rushed up through me at what I had done. Then I saw hatred flare up in his eyes, deep and dark, and his fist came toward me, much quicker than how I saw my own earlier punch, and knocked me right in the chin. My head rattled, causing my brain to buzz but that was it, I no longer had any fight left in me. Tears sprang up in my eyes and they weren't all due to the physical pain that was radiating up from my chin. The moment that my hand hit his face I understood how fundamentally wrong it is to hurt others. It resonated deep within me and I couldn't take this conflict further because I felt the utter desolation that it would bring. Then, I actually saw that desolation upon his face, pure seething anger that wanted to come at me and extinguish what I had wrought.

In that moment I experienced the profound unlimited energy of cause and effect. Those who support violence to solve disagreements cannot truly understand the impact it has on their own lives and the lives of their families and friends for generations to come because if they did, they would immediately feel the desolation that I felt on that day many years ago. Those who support violence reject their own humanity and succumb to the dark heart of the jungle. They eat their children.

When I was ten-years-old, I realized that I was incapable of physically hurting someone and since then I have not raised my fist toward another human being. It was a defining moment in my life but for the longest time I viewed it as cowardly. Now, when I look at Lucas, I see that it's crucial for me to value the humane and natural feelings of respect that came out of me in that moment. I hope that somehow my actions will make a positive difference in the lives of my children, that in some way they will be protected by the choices I make.

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