Archive for the 'Jesus' Category

23
Dec
08

Merry Christmas, or whatever

Yeah, I know, I said I wouldn’t post until after the first of the year, but this is important to me, so here you go…

Recently, a woman came into my store asking for some help picking out cigars for her husband, which she informed me would be part of his Christmas present.  She was a pleasant, educated woman in her thirties, with red hair and freckles.  When it came time to pay, I noticed the name on her credit card was “O’Brien”.  Feeling that I was on safe ground here, I wished the woman “Merry Christmas” as I handed her credit card back to her.

From the look she gave me, you would have thought I’d told her to go fuck herself.

What is wrong with people nowadays?  Yes, I’m all in favor of cultural sensitivity. There is a time and a place for “Happy Holidays”.   Had this woman not been so obviously Irish, (or had not informed me that the cigars were a CHRISTMAS present) I might have retreated to the safety of that vapid phrase.

But when did “Merry Christmas” become the semantic equivalent of an insult?

Sometimes I think it’s just laziness.  By saying “Happy Holidays”, people give themselves a cheap way out.  After all, taking the time to find out which holiday the person actually celebrates, and then wishing them the appropriate compliments of the season, only takes a modicum of time and effort, and yet even this seems to much trouble in our increasingly impersonal, desensitized world.

And by the same token, what is there to get so uptight about, anyway?  If a Jew wished me “Happy Hanukkah”, I know I’m not going to get all bent out of shape over it.  I would simply take it in the friendly spirit in which it was intended and wish him “Happy Hanukkah” in return.

I do not know if the man known as Jesus of Nazareth was divine. I do not know if he performed miracles. I do not know if he was resurrected from the dead.

And I’m not sure I even care.

What I do know is that he preached a message of love, tolerance, peace, and forgiveness at a time when his people were looking for a leader who would overthrow the Romans and return Israel to its former glory. I know he was spurned by the religious establishment of his day.  And I know that he really, really, pissed off the government. Like so many who came after him, he was murdered because he would not back down from saying things he felt needed to be said, even to the point of surrendering his own life in the process.

Imagine what the world would be like if people really did live their lives the way Jesus of Nazareth extolled us to: love your neighbor, forgive your enemies, judge not lest you be judged.

If one can grasp those ideas, then one has truly grasped the very real meaning of Christmas. And so, whatever your beliefs, please allow me to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

-Stephen P. Smith

21
Oct
08

always free cheddar in a mousetrap….

Just a little something I found amusing……..

I’d sell your heart to the junkman baby
For a buck, for a buck
If you’re looking for someone
To pull you out of that ditch
You’re out of luck, you’re out of luck

The ship is sinking
The ship is sinking
The ship is sinking
There’s leak, there’s leak,
In the boiler room
The poor, the lame, the blind
Who are the ones that we kept in charge?
Killers, thieves, and lawyers

God’s away, God’s away,
God’s away on Business. Business.
God’s away, God’s away,
God’s away on Business. Business.

Digging up the dead with
A shovel and a pick
It’s a job, it’s a job
Bloody moon rising with
A plague and a flood
Join the mob, join the mob
It’s all over, it’s all over, it’s all over
There’s a leak, there’s a leak,
In the boiler room
The poor, the lame, the blind
Who are the ones that we kept in charge?
Killers, thieves, and lawyers
God’s away, God’s away, God’s away
On Business. Business.
God’s away, God’s away,
On Business. Business.

[Instrumental Break]

Goddamn there’s always such
A big temptation
To be good, To be good
There’s always free cheddar in
A mousetrap, baby
It’s a deal, it’s a deal
God’s away, God’s away, God’s away
On Business. Business.
God’s away, God’s away, God’s away
On Business. Business.
I narrow my eyes like a coin slot baby,
Let her ring, let her ring
God’s away, God’s away,
God’s away on Business.
Business…

–Tom Waits
from the album “Blood Money” (2002)

24
Dec
07

…and god bless us, every one?

We live in a time when even saying “Merry Christmas” to a stranger might get you a dirty look. How did this come to pass?

Yes, I’m all in favor of cultural sensitivity. There is a time and a place for “Happy Holidays”. But when did “Merry Christmas” become the semantic equivalent of an insult?

Yes, it’s true that Christmas in our time has been cheapened, commercialized, and degraded. Yes, it’s true that there are those who do not believe Jesus Christ was divine. And yes, it’s true that Christians can sometimes be insufferable in their zeal.

There are some who say that I suffer from a “mental disorder” for believing in God, and that I am “deluded” for participating in a false and commercial holiday such as Christmas. To them, and to all those who would criticize me for not only celebrating Christmas but for believing it to still be important and relevant, I would say this:

I do not know if the man known as Jesus of Nazareth was divine. I do not know if he performed miracles. I do not know if he was resurrected from the dead.

And I’m not sure I even care.

What I do know is that he preached a message of love, tolerance, peace, and forgiveness at a time when his people were looking for a leader who would overthrow the Romans and return Israel to its former glory. I know he was spurned by the religious establishment of his day. And I know that he really, really, pissed off the government. Like so many who came after him, he was murdered because he would not back down from saying things he felt needed to be said, even to the point of surrendering his own life in the process.

Ultimately, it matters not what one believes regarding the Divine. The fact is that all of us, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, and all the rest of the human race are stuck together on this little rock we call Earth. Imagine what the world would be like if people really did live their lives the way Jesus of Nazareth extolled us to: love your neighbor, forgive your enemies, judge not lest you be judged.

If one can grasp those ideas, then one has truly grasped the very real meaning of Christmas. And so, whatever your beliefs, please allow me to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

-Stephen P. Smith

14
Dec
07

I shall keep my good humour…

I am one of those old fashioned souls who still loves the Christmas season. I love the lights. I love the music (Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, mind you, not the rubbish that passes for Christmas music nowadays). I love the way my childhood memories come back to me every year, Christmas presents from the past.

I still love watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.

Now there are some people to whom Christmas is simply an annoyance, and I understand how they feel. Christmas has become cheapened and commercialized, to be sure, but I suppose that’s the price we pay for living in a capitalist society. It is hectic, it is frustrating, it is expensive. It is a pain in the ass at times, I agree.

To those who have difficulty finding joy in this season, I would offer these words:

In an early scene in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, Scrooge’s nephew Fred Holywell chides his uncle for sneering at Christmas, saying, “I have always thought of Christmas…as a good time…when men open up their shuttered hearts to one another.”

Later, in a more dramatic scene, Marley’s ghost indignantly answers Scrooge’s comment that he was always a “good man of business”:  “Mankind was my business! The common welfare was my business! Mercy, charity, benevolence, forbearance, were all my business! The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the vast, comprehensive ocean of my business!”

To me, the real “meaning of Christmas” is that we, as members of the same human race despite our differences, can all “make mankind our business“, in large ways and small. A friendly smile to that harried clerk at the cash register can brighten that person’s day. Perhaps, if you happen to be one the long suffering souls who works behind that cash register, a friendly word to a customer can make the difference between a good day and bad one, for you and for them. Or maybe it can take the form of an encouraging word to a co-worker who’s having a bad day. Or maybe holding back an angry word to a family member, even if you really want to strangle them. Perhaps it’s helping a senior citizen struggling with their holiday packages, or a lost child crying in the store looking for its mother

I am nominally a Catholic, but really just nominally. When it comes to contemplating the divine, one person’s religious belief is usually as valid as another’s. I do not know if Jesus of Nazareth was really the Son of God, as many believe. But I happen to know that at least some of what Jesus, divine or not, is reported to have said makes as much sense in our time as it did in his. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, “Forgive your enemies”, and (my personal favorite) “Judge not lest ye be judged”. Whether or not you believe in the divinity of Jesus, these are good words to live by, and it would be a much better world if everyone did live by them, regardless of their stated religion (or lack thereof). When you get right down to it, these aren‘t necessarily religious beliefs at all. They are simply a blueprint for living in harmony with the rest of the human race.

Those who have been reading this blog will know that I have engaged in some spritited debates with some who do not believe in any god at all.  I have enjoyed these debates, and by participating in them I have been given much to think about.  But one thing that has not changed is my very real belief that the real meaning of Christmas is that human beings can, when they put their minds to it, be genuinely decent to one another. And if we can remember to do that at this time of the year, perhaps we can even try to “make mankind our business” throughout the year.

And so, like the irrepressible Fred Holywell, “I shall keep my good humour, and wish you a Merry Christmas.”

–Smith

29
Aug
07

God, anyone?

For those of you who are interested in such things, I am currently debating the existence of God, as well at the merits of well known atheistic gasbag Richard Dawkins, in a series of comments on another blog. The gentleman I’m debating is intelligent and articulate, and this is getting rather interesting.

Yeah, I know, I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands. But if you’re interested in this topic, or you just want to see two reasonably intelligent people debate, click here.

-Smith

20
Dec
06

I shall keep my good humour…..

I am one of those old fashioned souls who still loves the Christmas season. I love the lights. I love the music (Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, mind you, not the rubbish that passes for Christmas music nowadays). I love the way my childhood memories come back to me every year, Christmas presents from the past.

I love the way my twelve year old stepson gets all excited whenever we go out on one of our Christmas traditions. It might be going to see Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”, or maybe riding out to Attleboro to see the lights at LaSallette shrine, or it might be something as simple as taking the long way home so we can see all the Christmas lights that decorate the surrounding area, or watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” together. He has a ball, and so do I.

Now there are some people to whom Christmas is simply an annoyance, and I can understand how they feel. This time of year has become cheapened and commercialized, to be sure, but I suppose that’s the price we pay for living in a capitalist society. It is hectic, it is frustrating, it is expensive. It is a pain in the ass at times, I agree.

To those who have difficulty finding joy in this season, I would offer these words:

In an early scene in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, Scrooge’s nephew Fred Holywell chides his uncle for sneering at Christmas, saying, “I have always thought of Christmas…as a good time…when men open up their shuttered hearts to one another.” Later, in a more dramatic scene, Marley’s ghost indignantly answers Scrooge’s comment that he was always a “good man of business”, exclaiming, “Mankind was my business! The common welfare was my business! Mercy, charity, benevolence, forbearance, were all my business! The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the vast, comprehensive ocean of my business!”

There are so many ways we, as members of the same human race despite our differences, can “make mankind our business“. A friendly smile to that harried clerk at the cash register can brighten that person’s day. Perhaps, if you happen to be one the long suffering souls who works behind that cash register, a friendly word to a customer can make the difference between a good day and bad one, for you and for them. Or maybe it can take the form of an encouraging word to a co-worker who’s having a bad day. Or maybe holding back an angry word to a family member, even if you really want to strangle them. Perhaps it’s helping a senior citizen struggling with their holiday packages, or a lost child crying in the store looking for its mother

I am nominally a Catholic, but really just nominally. When it comes to contemplating the divine, one person’s religious belief is usually as valid as another’s. I do not know if Jesus of Nazareth was really the Son of God, as many believe. But I happen to know that at least some of what Jesus, divine or not, is reported to have said makes as much sense in our time as it did in his. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, “Forgive your enemies”, and (my personal favorite) “Judge not lest ye be judged”. Whether or not you believe in the divinity of Jesus, these are good words to live by, and it would be a much better world if everyone did live by them, regardless of their stated religion (or lack thereof). When you get right down to it, these aren‘t necessarily religious beliefs at all. They are simply a blueprint for living in harmony with the rest of the human race.

To me the real meaning of Christmas is that human beings can, when they put their minds to it, be genuinely decent to one another. And if we can remember to do that at this time of the year, perhaps we can even try to “make mankind our business” throughout the year.

And so, like the irrepressible Fred Holywell, “I shall keep my good humour, and wish you a Merry Christmas.”

–Smith




taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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