Friday, 15 December 2017

The Shadow is the Candle’s Son - Day 16

Day 16 (Saturday 16th December 2017)
16 - the average number of Christmas presents a UK child will receive.
Winter gifts were given to family and friends long before the biblical story of Three Wise Men
bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh was told. Pagan in Europe and the Middle East gave gifts 
on a number of occasions over the winter period, including the raucous Saturnalia on the 17th 
December, in honour of the god of agriculture, Saturn. People would drink to excess and give gifts of pottery and
wax figurines, edible treats and candles. During the puritan times of Oliver Cromwell and 
the Pilgrim Fathers in America present giving at Christmas was banned because of its pagan roots.
Christmas celebrations were legalised in the 1680s. People have complained about the increasing 
commercialism of the season over many years, in 1904 Margaret Deland, a journalist in Harper's Bazar,
wrote "Twenty-five years ago, Christmas was not the burden that it is now, there was less haggling 
and weighing, less quid pro quo, less fatigue of body, less wearing of soul; and, most of all,
there was less loading up with trash." This lead to the creation of the Society for the Prevention 
of Useless Giving, whose members included former President Roosevelt and Anne, the daughter of financier J.P. Morgan.

The weekend is here - given the date, I suspect that it will not be a day of calm reflection and relaxation. However, whatever type of day you have ahead, please ensure that you give yourself sufficient time to savour today's thought provoking post. It is written by the brilliant Chris Nichols, a Founding Partner of Gameshift - a consultancy, made up of a collaborative hub of coaches, artists, musicians and business experts that support organisational and individual change. Those of you who have interacted with him at work or via social media (his Twitter handle is sometimes the name of his business @GameSh1ft or else as himself @chrisnicholsT2i) will know that he is highly intelligent, quick-witted and a broad thinker. He works as a coach and is not afraid to speak out to help others learn and grow. Erudite but with a keen sense of the absurd, he is a fan of laughter. This will doubtless prove a delight to both him and his beloved granddaughter in the years to come. He is highly creative, his poetry has been published in Hold this Hand - a collection of poems on loss released by Cruse (the bereavement charity). You can find one of his stories in Knock Twice, a collection of tales for social change published in autumn 2017. Chis is a pleasure to be with and commands considerable respect from clients, contacts and colleagues. He lives in Dartmoor and loves the open space around him; he is a keen long-distance walker. He walked the 1,000km of the south west Coast Path in 2016 following his departure from Ashridge, as an act of recovery from anger and depression. He is currently studying an MA in Buddhist Studies and planning another long walk.


The Shadow is the Candle’s Son

In nature’s heart, a deep silence reigns,
with bird-call, dog-bark,
the sound of rain:
each sits gently, beside the jet engine’s bite,
the sky is unmoved

by the easy-jet flight
As I sit I sense the ease
with which paradox rests among the trees.

Bright light bears shadow on its wings:
a still note spills from the moving string

The brilliance and the black
are one.

The shadow is the candle’s son.

Paradox, Chris Nichols (2007)

We live in a time of so much hashtag hate. So much effort poured into making clear that “we” are not like “them”.

Us and them - Pink Floyd

It’s a time of polarity, when much debate seems simplified into a Punch and Judy show of adversaries. 

There’s only a thin shoreline for understanding to stand on. It’s washed to nothing when the contesting tides deny all space for meeting and curiosity.

Caribbean meets Atlantic in Bahamas
Perhaps there is a lesson this season might gift us, if we step in close enough.

Alongside the marketing and merriment, Advent offers a deeper steadier voice, reminding us that this world is a pattern of brightness and night.  It once marked a time of fasting and abstinence in the move towards the birth of the light. The Christmas festival echoed the earlier solstice paganism of Yule, celebrating the turning of the dark and the return of the sun.

Every one of us is a fractal of this dance. Sometimes we can see only our own light. Sometimes we see only the dark in others. Yet we are all of us both dark and light together.

The ceaseless cycles of one season passing into the next reminds us that binary views mask something deeper, of a greater complexity, woven of richer tones.  We can’t do good work, we cannot live well on this tiny earth, if we assume to ourselves all of the light, and insist that some other is only an agent of darkness.

Perhaps we can pause at this time of the season’s turning to look beyond the identity dance of “self” as “not-other”.   Maybe we can take time to acknowledge that we too have our darkness, that our most brilliant light also casts a shadow.  Maybe we can look at another long enough to see the crack in the wall that keeps us from them, a crack through which their light becomes more visible to us.

Every such act of seeing our connection to another would indeed mark a turning of the season and be a cause for cheer.

Yule 2017

1 comment: