Tomorrow is December 1st, and the holiday season is upon us. We’ll have the Christian and Jewish holy days, Kwanza, and spiritual celebrations for Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, and Zoroastrians. So to offer my first of many holiday messages, I chose to make it non-religious and take it from the daily Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. As you may remember, he was the Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 CE and a Stoic philosopher. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emperors (a term coined some 13 centuries later by Niccolò Machiavelli) and the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire lasting from 27 BC to 180 AD.
I’m using the following quote from his Meditations to make a few key points you might use to create a bit of happiness and contentment in our confusing and chaotic Holiday Season.
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good and the ugliness of evil and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own — not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.”
The message that speaks to me in this meditation is how this season allows us to ignore our brokenness as humans and how recognition and acknowledgment of that fact help us relate to our family, friends, and neighbors with a good deal of love and humility. Somehow we get past the criticisms and judgments and allow our love to overcome these obstructions. If not seasonal as usual, sincere humility can help us clear the obstructions we put in our way all year if we let it. But how many of us are willing to bow to our weaknesses and say, “yes, that’s me. I let my petty grievances become obstructions and stop me from feeling this season’s love all year round.
If we can level the field (in our minds), we can see people as equals, regardless of race, religion, national origin, political party, and sexual orientation. Of course, they will be “meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly,” but so will we. He wrote that they are of the same nature as us, “not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind and possessing a share of the divine.” Seeing the share of the divine in everyone is our challenge.
Our traditional religions today have placed the divine in another realm, in a God in a supernatural place. Yet until we see the divine spark in each other, we’ll never have peace on earth.
As in the past, we will wish each other peace on earth and goodwill toward all. But to mean it with sincerity, and not just in the thrall of the season, requires we see that divine, that spark of the sacred in every human being. That’s what I wish for us, that we may see our flaws and those of others and, despite that, see the divine spark that unites us all.
So offer your own wishes and don’t worry so much about the words you use. It’s the intention that counts and hopefully, sincerity is its foundation.