Wednesday, December 25, 2013

True Blue Christmas

True Blue, Yorgos Papadopoulos, Icon in Shattered Glass
 St. Thomas Parish, Dupont Circle

Out of brokenness comes light and love. 

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Facebook Christmas Trap

This is a public service reminder about Christmas time on Facebook. I'll use my own house as an example.

What people show is this:

The Vicar's Christmas Tree, 2013

Pretty good, huh? Looks cozy perfect, all ready for Santa.

But what they don't show is this:

The same room that the Vicar's Christmas tree is in. FML.

Chaos. Same room, just a different perspective. It'll be together by the time people come over. Hopefully. And if not, they're just going to have to deal with it. Sorry guys.

Because you know what? No one's perfect, even if they look perfect on Facebook, so don't sit there freaking out about how your life doesn't look like their life. I do it too. I see the life milestones (weddings, babies) the professional milestones (ordinations, in my case, or new jobs) and I sit there and get in a spin because everyone's life is moving along, but mine seems stuck in the everyday mundanity of existence. It's not really stuck, because everyone's day to day life is mundane. That's the definition of mundane, actually: it comes from the Latin, mundus, world. It's your every day world. 

So, if it helps, here's my messy living room. Don't beat yourself up. Get ready for Christmas the best way that you can, but if it falls short of your wild expectations and is instead mundane, that's okay. It's okay because Christmas is when Christians celebrate the day God came to be mundane with us, in all the messiness that mundanity entails. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The American Dream is dead. And that's okay.

The American dream of our parents is dead. And I’m okay with that.

I mean, I wouldn’t have been the one to kill it myself, it’s nice and all. Go to college. Get a stable job. Buy a house. Have kids. Save carefully and travel when you retire. It’s a good dream, a nice goal. It’s just that I’m not convinced it works like that anymore. 

The reality I see around me is different: go to college, realize you can’t get a job with a bachelors, get a masters, realize everyone else has a masters so you still can’t find a job, work several part-time jobs while paying mountains of student loan debt, pay out of pocket for health insurance, live with roommates way longer than you would ever want to live with roommates, and claw yourself back to zero by the time you’re forty. A down payment? Are you kidding me? And this is the situation you’re in if you’re lucky enough to have the wherewithal to get to college in the first place. 

But there is a bright side to the undignified trashing of the previous generations’ American dream. The bright side is that, in the act if rejecting, we are forced to consciously choose the next American dream. And with the old dream dead, we can dream bigger (and smaller) at the same time.

We can dream something up that’s more interconnected and based on relationships, instead of possessions. We could dream up a way to exist that wouldn’t destroy the environment. We could dream up a new way of living, in which one’s passions and interests wouldn’t be forever relegated to hobby status, never to be pursued due to overwhelming exhaustion. We could have the time and space to figure out who we were created to be. We could dream up ways to embrace the situation that we’re in,  and we could realize that the life we’ve been forced into has actually been embraced by creative types over the span of centuries: writers, artists and performers have all cobbled together a living out of piecemeal work. Creative types, for the most part, have chosen freedom over security, flexibility over rigidity. Time, freedom, and desperation are needed to be able to create. We’ve got plenty of time, even though a third (or fourth) job wouldn’t hurt the bottom line. We’ve got so much freedom it’s scary. And there’s lots of desperation lying around. 

If we have been unwillingly forced into the lifestyle of artists, why couldn’t we also create like artists? If we’ve got nothing to lose, what is there to lose by trying? If we’ve been coerced into a second adolescence, why can’t we take that time to mature into a wiser and kinder generation?

Living like an artist is no cakewalk. Struggling to make ends meet sucks. But the flip side of this lifestyle is space for vision, and creativity, and passion, and love for what you’re doing. Courage, chutzpah, and saltiness will be required, as well as great faith. 

The American dream can be resuscitated, or, if you prefer, resurrected. But it has to be made into something new. Luckily for us, we’ve got desperation, freedom, and time. In spades.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Krampusnacht 2013

Fröhliche Sankt Nikolaus Tag!

Husband and I just got back from visiting Husband's family in Seattle, but were in time to see the second annual DC Krampusnacht.

First observation about Krampusnacht: If I had been a child, I would have been terrified. I mean, I was afraid of Santa, so if I was afraid of Santa, than this:

Krampusnacht 2013
or this:

Krampusnacht 2013
would have been the end of me.

Second observation about Krampusnacht: I loved the weird amalgamation of people who paraded down the street. People who had no idea this was happening, but joined in, people who had been planning elaborate costumes for months, some RennFaire kids, some Comicon kids, some Goth-looking kids, a drunk sousaphone player blatting Christmas carols, people promoting Santa's Cause DC, others just giving out candy. There was also some kind of dance troupe who were hitting each other with sticks, as well as some actual Germans (or Swiss, or Austrians, I couldn't tell.) Others just stood by and laughed at the crazy fun of it all. But no one in the crowd seemed to mind the differences, and rather, a dare I say festive? mood won the day. Even the cops seemed bemused.

Third (and mildly theological) observation on Krampusnacht: In the places where Krampusnacht is traditionally observed, the Krampus accompanies St. Nicolas on the eve of St. Nicolas's feast day, December 6th. St. Nicolas rewards the good children, while the Krampus gives out sticks or coal, or beats (really, threatens or pretends to beat) the bad children. The Krampus carries chains, noisemakers, and sometimes a basket on his back to cart bad children off to his lair so he can eat them.
        This idea really appeals to me. Not the eating/beating children part, but the part where the entire community recognizes -- literally, re-cognize, re-thinks-- not just the existence of good, but the existence of evil. It's standing right in front of them, albeit in a cartoonish form, but the chains that bind and the teeth that gnash are reminders of the how evil, even at its most banal, is a force that destroys. Evil rarely looks outwardly like a Krampus. Mostly, it looks like violence behind closed doors, grinding systemic oppression, the rippling effects of poverty, or the crippling indifference to those around us. And if that's not scary, I don't know what is.