Solstice

You may have noticed over the past six months that the sun is dying.

Every day it climbs a little less high into the sky than it climbed the day before. It hangs low in the sky, visiting us with its warmth a little less each day. Every morning it wakes later, and every evening it retires earlier. If it were to continue its malaise, it would eventually be unable to climb even above the horizon, leaving us in a perpetual night. Alone. To die.

Fear not, today the sun is reborn. It is renewed. Beginning today it will climb higher in the sky every day, it will visit us with it’s life sustaining warmth for longer and longer each day. In a short time snows will melt, rains will come, plants will spring forth again, and a new generation of baby animals will be born into a new land.

The circle of life on our tiny little rock will continue on, for at least another year. The sun and the earth care not whether we live or die, yet today, because of their movements, our tiny little lives are saved, to continue on, for at least another year.

It is a time to celebrate, and reflect, and take joy in the knowledge that we live, we are alive and well and living on planet Earth, for at least another year.

Feel free to celebrate this miracle with the religious ritual of your choice.

It’s ONE day… (Thanksgiving)

It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow. Stay home. Be with the ones you love. Let the retailers do the same…

(A few words from a retailer and dear friend of mine…)

It’s ONE day. I’m a retailer. I’m a capitalist. I NEED people to shop. But I’ve already given up my Sundays with my family for working for a public that is also working so much that often they only have Sundays to shop together, but I’m also willing to say in a public forum that I’m not happy about the Sunday work, not one little bit. But Thanksgiving has been set aside for thankfulness, contemplation, and reflection. It is SUPPOSED to be a pause-and-think moment. In even small-town American, I now work New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, etc. You’ll literally have to shoot me before I work on Christmas Day and Easter, but this nation has lost the meaning of this holiday. Shame on everyone shopping. No, I am not condemning the stores opening. In many cases, if they closed and lost those sales to competitors in this economy, it could mean business death. SHAME ON THE SHOPPERS. Knock it off! STOP! It is ONE DAY! I’ll be working every day, literally EVERY day, from Friday morning until Christmas Day. You’ll have ample opportunity to shop, and our economy and us business owners depend upon it. But just this ONE day, stop and be thankful, and let many of us have just one day off work, something for which some of us are more thankful than some shoppers must realize.

— Jeff Haddan

Happy Holidays 2014

It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and already people have started that beloved annual Christmas tradition — belittling people and especially businesses who say “Happy Holidays”.

So I thought maybe I should get my “Happy Holidays” rant out of the way early this year, so here goes…

It’s not about fear of offending someone, it’s about being inclusive. It’s about a business valuing all of their customers, not just the Christian ones. It’s saying to everyone, “I don’t know what holiday you celebrate, but whatever it is I wish you happiness as you celebrate it.”

Only in America would people get upset about trying to wish happiness to everyone. Shame on you Christians, trying to keep all the holiday happiness for yourselves. Learn to share. Maybe be welcoming and friendly to others who aren’t like you. I think maybe Jesus would like that.

(Just guessing on that last part, based on what I’ve read about him — I’m not like hearing voices in my head or anything.)

Anywho…. Happy Holidays Everyone!

Happy Easter

A little over 2,000 years ago the Romans executed a religious leader for political crimes. His followers believed he rose from the dead three days later. This event became the defining moment of the new religion, and over the years many others would come to believe. Within a few hundred years it would become the official religion of the Roman Empire. Within a thousand years it would become the most widely practiced religion on the planet, and it continues to be to this day.

Today we commemorate this single momentous event by having our small children search for brightly colored eggs hidden in the grass by a magical bunny. Everyone accepts this as normal, despite the fact that no one can establish a plausible connection between the executed religious leader and either brightly colored eggs or magical bunnies.

Still, the resulting holiday gives us an opportunity to dress up, gather with family, reconnect with our beliefs, and eat lots of candy and chocolate in the shape of eggs and magical bunnies (but strangely none in the shape of an executed religious leader), so on the whole it makes for a nice day.

Happy Easter Everybody!

“Happy Holidays”

First, let me preface by saying, I don’t get offended when people say “Happy Holidays”, and I don’t get offended when people say “Merry Christmas”. I do get annoyed by people who insist that only one greeting is correct, and who take offense if they do not receive their correct greeting. Otherwise I think this whole greeting thing is blown way out of proportion and people should just lighten up and be glad people are actually talking nicely to each other for a change.

I said all that just so I could say this. I saw a “Happy Holidays” sign today…. wait for it…. at a Christmas Tree lot.

I would think that out of all the places in the world where you might be inclined to say “Merry Christmas” in a retail environment, the one place where you would actually WANT to would be where the ONLY thing you sell is Christmas Trees. But that’s just me….

Happy Holidays Everyone… That’s Right, I Said HAPPY HOLIDAYS

(I’ll keep this one short and light, I promise.  And there’s a joke at the end.)

I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy but… When someone says to me “Happy Holidays”, I don’t assume they are trying to insult my faith.  I don’t think they are pushing some kind of liberal atheist agenda.  I don’t believe they are trying to tear down the fabric of western society.  I just think it’s a friendly greeting, and they are just trying to be nice.

By the same token…

I may be crazy but… When someone says to me “Merry Christmas”, I don’t believe they are trying to push their right-wing Christian agenda on me.  I don’t think they are intolerant of other faiths, or are xenophobic, or that they hate the Jews.   I just think it’s a friendly greeting, and they are just trying to be nice.

On the other hand…

When someone says to me “Seasons Greetings”, I think of this little cartoon I saw where these little bottles of garlic, parsley, and oregano were all saying “hi” to each other.  And that makes me smile.

Merry Xmas Everyone… Yes, that’s right, I said XMAS

For all my dear Christian friends who have made an annaul tradition of getting bent this time of year about the use of the term “X-mas”, please kindly consider the following:

1.  X- (the greek letter Chi) has been used in English as an accepted abbreviation for Christ for over 500 years.  Chi (“X” to us) is the first letter of “Christ” as spelled in the original Greek.  Just for fun, go to Google translate or Babelfish, and try translating “Christ” into Greek.  As a Christian, you should recognize the Chi-rho (Xp) symbol, one of the earliest and oldest symbols of Christianity.  Yes, I know crosses and Jesus-fish are all the rage now, but back in the day the Chi-rho was THE symbol for followers of Christ.  That the “X-” has lost acceptance as an abbreviation for Christ is a reflection of a modern educational system with no focus on classical language, much moreso than any real or imagined atheist conspiracy to replace Jesus with algebra.

2.  December 25th is the birthday of a great many deities, however Jesus Christ was not originally one of them.  That we celebrate his birth on december 25th is a somewhat arbitrary choice made by the early Roman church, as they established the calendar of new Christian holy days.  They could have just as easily chosen May Day or Groundhog’s Day.  (Yes, really, Groundhog’s Day.)  While we don’t actually know the date of His birth, we do know with some certainty that it is very unlikely it was in December.  (Or May, or February, for that matter.)  So the real question should be, not who’s trying to take Christ out of Christmas, but rather who put Christ into Christmas in the first place.  (Believe me, that’s a much more interesting question.)

3.  Almost all of the traditions of Chrismas are older than Christ.  There were decorated trees, and gift-giving, and decorations, and parties, and holly, and mistletoe, and yule logs, and wreaths, and carolling, and probably eggnog, all long before Jesus Christ was born.  Putting Christ into Christmas really didn’t change it all that much.  Just the name really, and it gave us some new songs to sing.  I suspect taking him out of it wouldn’t really change it that much either.  These old traditions, with or without their Christian overlay, are important – they are our connection with our past.  If we don’t know where they came from, if we don’t understand our own traditions, they are no longer meaningful to us.  They become nothing more than pointless, mindless ritual.

4.  A significant number of Christans to this day do not celebrate Christmas.  Certainly no Christians prior to the Roman Emperor Constantine celebrated Christ’s birthday, on December 25th or any other day.  The pilgrims who came here, nearly died, and in the process invented Thanksgiving, did not celebrate Christmas.  Today our modern view of the Christmas tradition is more shaped by Dickens and Coca-Cola than by anything from the Bible.  The New Testament tells a great deal about the activities of the early apostles, and the early (pre-Roman) churches they served, in the years and decades following the death of Christ.  Missing from the scripture is any mention of any remembrance or celebration of the birth of Christ.  From a dogmatic point of view, the birth, aside from being to a virgin, is nearly inconsequential. It is the death and ressurection of Christ that is the central tenant upon which Christainity is founded.  (This is why a magic bunny hides eggs for the kiddies on Easter.)

5.  Two out of three people on the planet are not Christian.  Nearly half of these non-Christians are Muslim, the other half are mostly Hindu or Buddhist.  None of them care what you do with the “X” in Christmas.  This great atheist conspiracy you are concerned about, well the number of atheists in the world is amazingly tiny, and most of them don’t care about your “X” either.  The ones that do care, they ONLY care in the context of where a government agency is involved in the establishment of religion.  You need to understand this – Using government resources to establish religious belief is forbidden by the most holy of their sacred texts, which they call the First Admendment.  Aside from that, what you do as a private citizen, or as a business, or as an organization, with respect to Christmas, honestly they don’t give a fuck.  In any case, you will NEVER hear a true atheist saying “Merry Xmas”.  Their traditional greeting is “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings”.  NOW LISTEN CAREFULLY:  Just because someone says “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” does NOT automatically mean they are an atheist.  More than likely it means they are trying to be friendly and inclusive to the two thirds of people on the planet who are not Christians. Despite appearances to the contrary, being Christian does not prohibit one from being friendly and inclusive.

 

Now…  For all my dear non-Christian friends out there, who have to put up with this nonsense every year:  Sorry, and Happy Holidays!

One Nation Indivisible

Monday is Memorial Day, the day we honor the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country. This holiday began as a remembrance of the soldiers lost in the Civil War, and has since expanded to honor those who paid the ultimate price in the subsequent wars, and simultaneously devolved into a nationwide barbecue celebrating the coming of summer.

It is interesting the aspects of today’s culture that have their roots in the Civil War. One of these is the Pledge of Allegiance. A great deal is made from time to time about the phrase “under God” in the pledge, but what many people don’t know is that the phrase “under God” was a much later addition to the pledge that significantly subverts it’s original and intended meaning.

The key phrase in the pledge, as originally written, was “one nation indivisible”. The pledge was created as a response to the Civil War. It was meant to be a promise that we are, and will forever be, a unified nation. That we would never again fracture or splinter, that we would never again take up arms against our own. The pledge was meant to be a solemn vow of unity that fully transends the hollow “under God” alteration brought on by Eisenhower-era anti-communist hysteria.

It is sad that this original message has been lost. As a country we have become more divisive than ever. We could use the occasional subtle reminder that we are meant to be “one nation indivisible”, that we have all pledged ourselves to the same thing. Those who are so caught up in the polarization between liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, red state versus blue state, they would do well to take a moment to remember the original purpose and meaning behind Memorial Day, and our Pledge of Allegiance.


I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands,
one nation indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all.

Recollections of Easter (The Easter Egg Hunt)

This is a paraphrased recollection of an actual conversation I had with my mother when I was about four or five…

Me: What’s an easter egg hunt?

Mom: We take easter eggs and hide them all over the yard, and you try to find them.

Me: But I don’t like eggs.

Mom: These are easter eggs.

Me: What’s an easter egg?

Mom: It’s like a regular egg, but they come in lots of pretty colors.

Me: So what do I get if I find them?

Mom: You get the eggs.

Me: Can I eat them?

Mom: Can if you want to.

Me: Do they taste different?

Mom: No, they taste like regular eggs.

Me: But I don’t like eggs.

(pause)

Me: You sure they’re not candy eggs or something?

Mom: No, their regular eggs.

Me: Can I eat them scrambled?

Mom: No, they’re hard-boiled

Me: What’s that?

Mom: They’re cooked in the shell in boiling water.

Me: Does that make them taste different?

Mom: Yes.

Me: Would I like them?

Mom: I don’t know, have you ever had a hard-boiled egg?

Me: I don’t think so.

Mom: Would you like to try one?

Me: Yes.

(we pause here for a few minutes as mom makes me a hard-boiled egg, and shows me how to peel and eat it.)

Mom: Well, what do you think?

Me: Mmm, not sure. (I take another bite)

(pause)

Me: I don’t like it.

Mom: What don’t you like about it?

Me: The taste.

Mom: What’s wrong with the taste?

Me: It tastes like eggs.

Mom: It IS an egg.

Me: But I don’t like eggs.

Mom: Fine, then you don’t have to eat it.

Me: So how do I win this easter egg hunt?

Mom: By finding the easter eggs.

Me: How many do I have to find?

Mom: As many as you can.

Me: What do I get if I win?

Mom: You don’t get anything, it’s not like that.

Me: There’s no prize?

Mom: No, there’s no prize.

Me: Just the eggs.

Mom: Right, just the eggs.

Me: And you’re sure they taste just like regular eggs?

Mom: Yes, I’m sure. It’s just food coloring, it doesn’t change the taste.

Me: And there’s no candy eggs, or chocolate eggs, or anything?

Mom: No, no candy eggs, no chocolate eggs, just regular eggs, that have been colored like easter eggs.

Me: I don’t like eggs.

Mom: I gathered.

Me: If it’s all the same to you, can I just stay in a watch cartoons instead?

Mom: Fine…