Eluding the enquirer: Essence

Happy New Year and a Joyous Life to all of you, again.

My sister said that the article I wrote was a little too sombre-ish and ill-suited to the light-hearted spirit which prevails during this festive season. I’m attempting this: an article equally insightful yet with a little humour interlaced in it.

This holiday season I was witness to a few paradoxical events. Between 24th December to 2nd of January Ireland celebrates two momentous occasions, and very uniquely too. The whole country is shut down from 24th December to 26th December. The families meet, attend church, rejoice, and spend time with each other. The whole country wears an exuberant, festive air. A very aware and alive festive mood prevails on these three days. The bars are shut down, even the airport is closed on the 25th of December. I never knew of any airports being closed for any festival anywhere in the world. The fiscal loss is mind boggling and can be a deterrent to any other materially focused developed or developing nation, but not to this unique country. This country truly honours and reveres their Lord and walks the whole nine yards in acknowledging the importance and overwhelming presence Jesus has in their daily lives. This is probably the only modern economy still grounded and rooted to its values and culture.

We live right next to a church and I was amazed to see the number of cars parked, and the throng of people in the church on 25th December. Even I get caught up in their frenzy and set up a Christmas tree. I felt very tempted to attend their mass and pay my respects, partake of the offerings and soak in the atmosphere of the church. They were unmindful of the damp weather, the incessant drizzle, the chilling wind piercing through their many warm layers; their countenance radiated pure joy and love. Every being who exits those huge doors carries a piece of Him in their hearts and that atmosphere inside the church becomes their inner climate. It is a miracle how they retain their inner warmth and buoyant spirits; a sharp contrast to the atmosphere outside.

A very paradoxical scenario played out on the 27th of December, at the Dublin airport. We were standing in line, waiting for our turn to board the plane to London. In front of me was a lady on her phone, very urgently crunching some numbers with the person at the other end. I was admiring her capacity to be so engrossed in her work when the whole country was still luxuriating in their holiday zone. She had a sandwich in one hand, phone in the other and was gently trudging the suitcase and inching her way forward in the queue. Next minute, the phone was cradled between her ear and shoulder and the free hand dived into her bag and she flipped open her tablet to clarify some details to the person on the phone, still eating and still pushing the suitcase with her leg.  Now, she was at the counter and it was her turn to show her boarding pass; she is not flustered in the least. Amazingly, and very smoothly, she puts the sandwich on the counter top and the free hand fishes out the boarding pass and flashes it. So, at that moment she was juggling five different things with absolute ease and totally in control! Of course, it was too good to be true. All hell broke loose when the uniformed lady politely informed this busy bee; “Ma’am, you are standing at the wrong gate”!

The play of expressions on her face is indescribable. Pandemonium ensued, followed by a string of epithets about how the airport was to be blamed, and how she will sue the airport for the loss of business because of their negligence! Needless to say, she missed her flight and beyond that I don’t know how the story ended. I can only conclude that between 25th December and 27th December this poor lady had totally lost control of her inner climate and whatever little portion of church atmosphere she was carrying within her was gone too.

I was mulling over this incident and my therapist mind wondered if this could be a dissociative personality disorder or something akin to that.  Then, this happens on 1st January 2019, at 3:30 am: I was about to sit down and meditate to welcome the new year on a ruminative note. It was my time to introspect, to re-align my goals and promises for the coming year. Suddenly, I heard loud jeering and slurred singing and laughter from outside! A group of inebriated men and women were making their way back home at 3:30 AM, wishing each other a ‘Happy New Year’. They could barely walk. They dragged their feet and one was supporting the other from falling on the road. They were all singing too, at the top of their voices. Nothing coherent or even close to a tune! It lasted for about 2 -3 minutes and the voices died down as they made their way uphill. I actually found it cute. The Irish were living up to their party spirit reputation.

When the same scene replayed itself every time I tried to meditate, it quickly stopped being cute or funny. I was irate and ready to open the door and pick a fight. From 3:30AM to 4:30 AM people were returning home and would certainly sleep through 3/4th of the New Year’s first day. Not only were they totally out of their own climate and atmosphere, this intermittent, noisy intrusion was marring my climate and atmosphere too!

In a span of five days they forget, abandon and lose that inner climate they so cherished and carried in their hearts on the 25th of December. That is how long it lasts! The connection and the essence we so carefully gathered on the 25th of December is decimated even before we can truly imbibe and make that essence a part of our inner self. Luckily, we have Christmas every year and we can partake of that essence atleast once a year. Maybe with time, we will outgrow our frivolous obsessions with the outside, and learn to cherish the atmosphere of the 25th of December and make it our own permanent climate.