One hundred years ago, humanity was limping its way between two world wars that would each consume millions of us and leave behind wounds that we are still licking today. Six hundred years earlier a bacterial disease rampages across Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa, killing somewhere between 25 and 50 million of us. Half of the people of Europe died. In the strange way that life works, there was a silver lining behind that dark cloud that would be wonderful to repeat:

If we had known at this point in 2019 that we could pretty much write off the next couple of years as lost ones, we might have slept through them. And maybe we did. It certainly feels like we’ve been circling through a series of nightmares. Maybe aliens have taken over and are putting us through horrifying mazes for their amusement. Maybe we’ve been here before.

Significant losses within older intellectual communities brought on an unprecedented opportunity for new ideas and art concepts to take hold, directly leading to the Renaissance and a more youthful, enlightened period of human history.

The Triumph of Death by Pieter Brueghel the Elder – Museo del Prado,

The new year that is about to land on our doorsteps will challenge each of us in new and unpredictable ways. Some of us will crack under its pressure. Some of us will discover strength we didn’t know we had. Most of us will cling to the people we love and tell them, and ourselves, that whatever comes, we will get through it together.

And, if nothing else, we now know that some later year than 2021 will be engraved as the end date on our tombstones.

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

We could all use a bit of Christmas cheer right about now. This has been a really rough year that followed hot on the heels of another really rough year. And unfortunately, thanks to a mutant called omicron, we can probably expect another fairly rough year ahead, at least at the beginning. But before the next wave rolls over us, it might be a good idea to have a little socially-responsible merriment.

The audio engineer seems to be enjoying himself

The song We Wish You A Merry Christmas is so old that nobody knows who wrote it, but the best guess of better guessers than me is that it came out of the west of England in the 18th Century. Whoever wrote it had a knack for merry melodies and this one has lightened the load for many people over the last couple of centuries. There are verses about figgy pudding and barrels full of beer but the main thrust of the lyrics is a wish for the joy of others. As you, reading this, are “the other” from my viewpoint, I would like to take the opportunity afforded by the season to wish you all the merriment and happiness you can handle.

A little figgy flambeau

This is at least the third Christmas season that I have tried to figure out how to play this song on piano and I just about have it. Here are a couple of verses – feel free to sing along and bring your own beer, figgy pudding, or whatever floats your boat:

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year

Good tidings to you
And all of your kin
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year 

Someday at Christmas

These are the dark days. The dark, cold, short days that are followed by long, darker, colder nights. In days like these, hope is as meager as the sunlight and as fleeting as every other type of warmth. These are the days we huddle together with those we love, or with strangers, and tell each other, and ourselves that better days are coming.

We need to believe that someday we will be walking together in the bright light of a better world. We tell ourselves that rampaging diseases, violence, anger, and hatred can be overcome by our collective spirit and, in defiance of nature’s cold darkness, we might yet see the light of goodwill toward each other.

Each year at this time, those of us who are still able to hope, think to ourselves that maybe this is the year the words “Peace on Earth” mean something tangible to enough people that real change is possible. One year will be the year it happens, when the people of the world let their love overcome their fear and see every other person on Earth as their family. As their blood.

Like Stevie Wonder says, “Maybe not in time for you and me,” but looking at the progress we have made in the last few generations – especially when you realize there are people alive today whose grandparents were slaves – I think we might be only two or three generations away from that most sacred Christmas: the one where “Peace on Earth” becomes reality.

Someday at Christmas men won't be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free

Someday at Christmas there'll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life's really worth
There'll be peace on earth

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

Someday at Christmas we'll see a land
With no hungry children, no empty hand
One happy morning people will share
Our world where people care

Someday at Christmas there'll be no tears
When all men are equal and no man has fears
One shinning moment one prayer away
From our world today

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

Someday at Christmas man will not fail
Hate will be gone and love will prevail
Someday a new world that we can start
With hope in every heart

Another Christmas Lyrics Poem

Oh, what fun!
Santa Claus is coming to town
Who wouldn’t go?
Giddy-up giddy-up giddy-up, let’s go
Pa rum pa pum pum
And friends are calling yoo-hoo
Come they told me
Gather near to us
Let nothing you dismay
Make the yuletide gay
As the shoppers rush home with their treasures
You mean you forgot cranberries too?

Oh, what fun!
Let it snow
It’s lovely weather
We’re riding in a wonderland of snow
We can watch the snowfall forever and ever

Oh, what fun!
When we finally kiss goodnight
As long as you love me so
There’s a happy feeling nothing in this world can buy
Sleep in heavenly peace
With the dawn of redeeming grace

Oh, what fun!
So, this is Christmas
I am a poor boy too
And so I’m offering this simple phrase
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight
Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear

Tofurky Day 2021

You might need more than one glass of that black wine to get through this

I became a vegetarian during my freshman year of high school, on Thanksgiving Day. I was fourteen years old and, excluding the first few years, when digesting such things would have proved difficult, I figure that I had between 10 and 12 traditional Thanksgiving dinners before purging myself of the consumption of flesh.

Earlier that year, I had met a girl who was a vegetarian, the first I had ever met. I knew such exotic creatures existed in the wild but the actual practice was something I had only heard about, not experienced. At the time, pizza and PB&J were about the only meals I knew of that fit the bill of vegetarianism. Now, even most steakhouses have something vegetarian on their menus.

The first record of vegetarianism comes from the writing of Pythagoras around 500 BC. The idea of treating other species with respect and dignity remains a tough one for most people these thousands of years later but it is estimated that there are about 10 million Americans who currently observe a vegetarian diet. It seems to me that the practice is gaining credibility with young people, and that has to be a good thing.

Thanksgiving Day is traditionally celebrated as a time to reflect on the good things in life: the things that are still bountiful as nature becomes stingier with her light and heat.

There are a lot of things to be thankful for this year. I am thankful for everyone who has gotten the vaccine, who wears a face mask and practices social distancing, for their help in overcoming a pandemic that currently sits at number 6 on the list of history’s worst.

Number six with a bullet

It takes no effort to see what is wrong with the world. Just turn on your TV or scroll through some social media. It is easy to get angry, discouraged, or frustrated. But what is easy is often the enemy of what is useful. So, as you tuck into your meat- or plant-based feast today, it would be a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity this day gives us to stop everything else we are doing and reflect with gratitude on everything that is right with the world.

Here is a song of thanks from a few years back, from another world:

For the time you made me smile
When you were crying all the while
For the time you helped me see
The other man who I could be

I want to thank you
I want to thank you

For the time you held my hand
When I had nothing but who I am
For the time you said to me,
"It's OK. Don't worry."

I want to thank you
I want to thank you