03 December 2009

Fighting contagion

I read an article the other day about some psychologists who had been studying the phenomena of loneliness, fear, worry, and negativity in general and had postulated a theory that these states of mind might be contagious. In fact they claim that these things might be far more contagious than the H1N1 influenza. Perhaps this isn't as far out as it may seem. Didn't President Roosevelt warn us that we have nothing to fear but fear itself? Right now there is a lot of fear, loneliness, and worry among people all over the world and especially in America. We Americans are a worrying people. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economic recession, the national debt, the falling dollar, the flu virus, the corruption scandals, the collapse of General Motors, rising unemployment, the mortgage crisis, the piracy on the high seas, the senseless murders of innocent people, and to top it all off, the constant name calling and backbiting in Congress, have cast a pall of gloom and doom over Americans everywhere, even some of the lucky ones who live here in Mexico. It's as if we were all singing that song "Gloom, despair, and agony on me" by Buck Owens and Roy Clark from the old TV Show "Hee-Haw" (1969 -1992). Remember?

Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all, Gloom, despair, and agony on me.

The situation is no doubt magnified by the fact that it is the month of December already and the Christmas Holiday Season is almost upon us when one's thoughts naturally turn to home...and the "home" that I am talking about is the one that you lived in when you were a little kid. I still miss it. I remember one December when I was about eight years, old I began to question the tradition of Santa Claus and so being the curious kid that I was (and still am) I decided to put him to the test. We had learned in school about Saint Nicholas, the ancient Bishop of Myra, and how the children of the Netherlands put out their shoes on the night before the feast day of St. Nicholas which is on December 6th. If they were good little girls and boys they could expect Black Peter, St. Nicholas's helper, to leave some goodies in their shoes. I thought, "Hmm, if this is really true and Santa Claus (or Sinterklaas as he is known in Dutch) is the genuine article, then according to my youthful calculations, it being December 5th, if we put out our shoes out on the back porch we ought to get some goodies". I then gathered my younger brother and sisters together and explained the proposition and I had them gather up their spare shoes and we all headed for the back porch. My mother had heard us talking and as we marched past her in single file and with great solemnity I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye and wondered from the way that she looked if she might be ill. Well, the way things turned out when we checked our shoes in the morning we found that the goodies were there sure enough and it was a long time after that before I doubted Santa Claus again.

Years later my mother reminded me of this and told me that on that night her first urge was to send me packing but she couldn't think of anyone who would take in such a little stinker like me. After we had gone to bed she put on her coat and ran down to the corner "Mom and Pop" delicatessen or what we called a "candy store" in those days and bought some cheap little toys and some comic books, coloring books, crayons, and candy and hurried back very frustrated that she was spending her grocery money on a persona as unexpected as St. Nicholas was on that particular night. She really didn't have to do it, but after all my Ma was (is) a saint, and she had to protect the spirit of Santa Claus because as you may or may not know, saints always stick together and look out for each other.

On the eve of another St. Nicholas day I think it is time that we remind ourselves that America is a great country and as they say in Mexico, "La situación no es para tanto", or "The situation isn't as bad as it seems". My Mexican friends all tell me, "No te preocupes, amigo"..."Don't worry about it my friend". Perhaps that is good advice. They never seem to worry so why, oh why, should I? I think what we as Americans need is a new rallying cry. At Cape Canaveral, Florida, on the Apollo One commemorative plaque at launch complex 34, there is a Latin motto that says, "Ad astra per aspera"..."To the stars through difficulties". Apollo One, as you may remember, is the Apollo mission that never got off the ground. It was consumed by fire on the launch pad on January 27, 1967, and as a result astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee lost their lives. That's what Americans need to be thinking right now, no...not about dying and not about actually going to the Moon again but about rising above our difficulties and reaching once again for the stars. We eventually made it to the Moon and we will eventually go back and we will eventually be at peace and economically solvent again and the sooner we stop crying and get on with it, the faster we will get there.

There is another thing that we sometimes lose sight of and that is the spiritual aspect. Have you noticed that in Mexico even the Devil has a part in Christmas? In almost every traditional manger scene you will find the Devil hiding in the background and observing. In all of the traditional "Pastorelas" you will find the Devil, usually trying to lead the poor shepherds astray on their way to worship the Christ child. Yes, the Devil is alive and well and he loves Christmas more than anyone else but for different purposes. He knows that through his artful manipulations he can make people miserable and lonely, and fearful and worried. How do I know that there is a Devil? Just look around you. How could "natural selection" alone be the cause for so much evil in the world? Yes, animals kill each other for food, but only human beings, kill, and maim, and rape, and terrorize, just for the fun of it...and the Devil helps them do it!

I have a suggestion. This Christmas season why don't we keep it simple. Let's forget about all of the rushing around and glitz and glitter and let's concentrate on lifting each other's spirits. Let's "get a grip" as they say and brighten things up with a smile. Put those negative thoughts on hold. At least for a little while let's stop all the griping and look for a little good among the bad. Let's get behind our presidents both in Mexico and the United States and use the power of what Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, called the "collective unconscious" ( or collective subconscious) to help them fend off the Devil. Remember, Satan was around at the beginning of time on Earth. He was there in the desert with the Israelites and he was not only present at the birth of Jesus, but he was with Jesus every step of the way to the cross, trying to make Him feel loneliness, fear, and worry. Jesus didn't let it happen to Him and neither should we. Like my Ma who is now in Heaven always said..."Onward ever, backward NEVER!"

3 comments:

Leslie Limon said...

After reading this post, I agree with you, your Ma is a saint! You are truly blessed to have such wonderful memories of her.

Bob, you beat me to it. I was actually working on a post about how the Devil plays a very important part in the Pastorelas and Nacimientos.

And thank you for the Hee-Haw clip. Brought back a few childhood memories! :D

1st Mate said...

Gracias, amigo, for reminding me what's important in Christmas. Call it the Devil or just (as Mary Baker Eddy used to say) "error," but it's alive and well at Christmas and is the main source of sadness, greed, thievery, anxiety and wrongheaded thinking that seems to come to a head at this time of year. No wonder the tinsel always looks so tarnished by December 27, it's just the same ol' same ol'. Time to reinvent the season, see what good we can create and carry into the new year.

YayaOrchid said...

Bob, what a truly lovely post! Your Ma was a truly classy lady!

I love your idea, if only we could hold on to it and remember it constantly. So good for this time of year too!

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.