Friday, December 23, 2016

Frantic Preparations

"All is Calm, All is Bright"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and it is also the beginning of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, so today lots of people everywhere will be running around making frantic preparations for the upcoming holiday celebrations – cleaning the house, rushing to the mall for those last-minute gifts, going to the market to prepare for the big holiday meal.

Standing in line at a local supermarket yesterday, I literally “laughed out loud” as I overheard someone in front of me telling the cashier: “It isn’t even Christmas yet and I am already sick of looking at my Christmas tree. I put it up a month ago and I just can’t wait to take it down.”  
All those people rushing around in that market getting ready for “tomorrow” and that one shopper’s statement about taking down her tree before Christmas even arrives struck me as being quite emblematic of life in general nowadays.

We painstakingly plan and sometimes frantically prepare for a future event and then when it finally arrives (or perhaps even before it happens) we easily tire of it, then it’s on to something else - something newer, something bigger, something better.

People buy new shoes, new clothes, a new car, or even a new house and before long they get tired of it and start looking for something else, or they plan for months for that big vacation and before it’s even over they begin planning for their next trip hoping to do something a little more exciting next time. We spend days of preparation for Christmas and when it finally arrives it may be that we are already tired of it or perhaps we are disappointed because it didn’t live up to our great expectations. 

All this leads us down a slippery slope into the dead-end of greater suffering.

I think of something Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh once said:

In everyday life we are always looking for the right conditions
that we don’t yet have to make us happy,
and we ignore what is happening right in front of us.
We wait and hope for the magical moment,
always something in the future when everything will be as we want it to be,
forgetting that life is available only in the present moment.

There is a piece of Zen spiritual wisdom that teaches something very similar:

Treat each moment as your last.
It is not a preparation for something else.

I have been thinking about the people making all those frantic preparations today for tomorrow’s big feast and festival.  I fear so many of us may be be missing all the joy life has to offer because we will spend so much time today looking for the magic to happen tomorrow when the magic of life only happens now.

Poet and author, John O’Donohue once wisely observed

Sometimes the urgency of our hunger blinds us to the fact that
we are already at the feast.

Tomorrow may be Christmas Eve or it may be the beginning of Hanukkah but today we are already at the feast.

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