(Note: To my Clear News community: I wrote this Christmas letter to my relatives and closest friends in 12/19 and updated it in 12/20. I thought you might find it interesting, and hopefully enjoyable to read!
Here’s the letter:
To my relatives, friends, and enemies:
(Hold on a second…..I have to get myself together. I have to put on my social persona so that I can write this letter. Let’s see, who am I? That’s right, Mr. Funny Guy, Mr. Philosopher, Mr. Struggling Catholic, Mr. Jean-Paul deCaussade, Jr., and Mr. Existentialist, trying to be authentic.
I’ve been getting all these Christmas cards from people reaching heights of joy and happiness, and accomplishing great things with their lives. Now where did I put that other shoe…..did you see it?
Let’s see now, how do I get myself going? How can I get myself out of this delicious sloth? Oh, I remember…..deCaussade: just do the duty of the present moment. So what is my duty of this present moment? That’s right, now I remember: write the Christmas letter!
Ok, I’m ready: here I am. SHOW TIME!)
The revolution is over
Hi, everyone. Merry Christmas! Joy to the world! A light has entered the darkness. Hallelujah. Jesus has conquered the world! The revolution is over! No matter, Gentile, Jew, atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic, nihilist, secularist, he has won the battle! The philosophical battle, the existential battle, the scientific battle, the political battle, and the economic battle.
It’s over! Now all we have to do is fill in the blanks, you know, love one another (and ourselves, for heaven’s sake), sell everything we own and give it to the poor, live for eternal life, forgive ourselves and others of everything, and I mean everything. Am I preaching again? Ok, don’t put the letter down, I’ll try to stop.
A friend is gone
It’s hard to stop, though. A good friend and almost a member of our family ended his life yesterday. Now he is gone and there is a hole in our lives. We’re going to a funeral mass this Saturday. Our friend put an immediate relevance to the eternal questions. One of these questions is, was Jesus true or not?
Regardless of atheistic worldview, the holy-roller worldview, or something in-between, there’s no one left standing in the battlefield of ideas except the Jewish carpenter from Nazareth.
Ok, some say “all truth is relative.” I can buy that. But relative to what? Relative to other ideas!
As we watch the world fall apart, or rather burn up, no other ideas compare to the idea of giving up our pursuit of maximum production and consumption. As we descend to the political mentality of pre-World War I nationalism, no other ideas compare to loving one’s enemy, forgiveness, returning good for evil, and some form of realistic pacifism. As we descend into jihad, no other idea compares with the idea of religious freedom (the freedom of pursuing God as you understand him!).
As the clock ticks down on our brief lives, nothing seems to compare to the hope of eternal life. And nothing compares to mythological truths, that is, ideas that cannot be disproved by science and are therefore — some scientific philosophers believe — true by definition. (However, life itself, i.e. history, disproves many mythologies, while others live on forever.)
Ok, the virgin birth is a little hard to swallow, but since it can’t be disproved, it is true by definition. Scientists may say it’s a meaningless idea since it’s not verifiable, but let them live in their little physical world. It’s more fun to open up my worldview to things that are not scientifically true, but still meaningful. You know, things like romantic love, prayer, music, humor, the belief in a heavenly father, eternal life, deCaussade, Bob Dylan, fate, you know, things like that.
Also, a mythology such as the virgin birth has had no negative effects in 2,000 years, where as other mythologies, such as the divine right of kings, dictatorship, Aztec religious mythology, communism, and fascism, have been clearly disproved by history.
“How many times can a man look up before he sees the sky?”
Speaking of wide worldviews, I read ten years ago that there were at least 150 billion galaxies in the world, most with over 100 billion stars each, like in our Milky Way. At that time, the idea of 150 billion galaxies blew me away. Now, those wild cosmologists are saying there are over two trillion galaxies!
Even if there was only one-in-a-trillion chance of there being life on another planet, this would mean that there are 100 billion planets in our universe with life on them. Since the universe is 14 billion years old, there is significant probability that there are planets with civilizations millions of years old.
So here we are, us self-centered humans, surrounded by a universal plethora of life – many of them millions of years ahead of us – thinking we are the sharpest saw in the shed!
Now scientists are also telling us that all reality is made up of tiny vibrating strings of curved space and, at the birth of the universe, these strings were folded up onto themselves in an infinitely small ball. And then — for no reason whatsoever – Whaala! – the ball unfolded into 2,000 billion galaxies and 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. This theory is based on “evidence-based” thinking.
Then these same scientists criticize me for believing that Jesus rose from the dead!?
Science is relatively true, but not complete.
Proof of heaven
And this whole thing about heaven, it seems to be relatively scientifically true! For I can prove that heaven exists better than the atheist can prove that it doesn’t. For, if heaven exists and, in fact, I get there (which I surely will if deCaussade is praying for me), I will have definite proof that heaven exists.
However, the poor atheist, he can never prove nor disprove, even in theory, his hypothesis that there is nothing after death. For, if in fact, there is no afterlife, he won’t exist, and he won’t be able to prove or disprove anything (and neither will I). However, if there is an afterlife, then the only thing that he can prove is that he was wrong. And he may be in trouble.
The believer has a better scientific hand.
A light in the darkness
I said I would try to stop preaching. Or am I just thinking? Anyhow, what is this rant all about? What does it have to do with the Jewish child being born of Mary? (After all, it is Christmas.) And what does it have to do with our friend leaving us?
It seems to me that since last year, with Donald Trump, the Me-Too movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Russian aggression, the fires and hurricanes from global warming, the trade wars, the immigrant invasion, global jihad, and now our friend being gone, Jesus seems to be brightest – if not the only — light to the world.
Another light in the world is the gift of romantic love. Quantum theorists say that all life is probability. This seems to be the case with romantic love: some of us get this gift and some of us don’t. This all happens for no apparent reason, except for the existential roll of the dice. (As an anti-thesis, the mythology of God’s will says that there is a plan to it all, and we will see the plan clearly in the next life.)
Perhaps romantic love is not as great of a gift as the hope of eternal life, or even the gift of committed, yet unromantic love, but it is still one of greatest gifts life has to offer. (If you don’t believe me, listen to the songs.)
We can look around and see how some people who have received the gift of romantic love have the character to believe in it, and spend their lives nourishing this love and helping it grow, while others simply f*** it up. They take paradise and pave it into a parking lot. (If you don’t believe me, listen to some more of the songs.)
As relationships grow and get more interdependent, we can see how valuable a good relationship can be, romantic or not. When one is down, the other can pick him up. When the other is down, he can return the favor.
Perhaps the gift of the mythology of Christmas has something to do with the gift of different forms of the spirit of love. We can call this the mythology of love.
My wife just come back from Morocco. The food was terrible and the environment was often dirty and seemingly unhealthy. She came back with a serious virus and had scary fits of coughing, which there was nothing anyone could do about it. She didn’t like Morocco.
She ignored deCaussade, who said that, “Whatever happens to you is the best thing that could happen.” Her enlightened friend (me) had to point out to her that, even though the trip was unpleasant, she learned a lot, had exciting experiences (like riding camels and sleeping in a tent in the Saharan desert), and deepened her friendship with an old friend, her travel companion. The vacation toughened her up a little and deepened her appreciation for the comforts of America. It was the best trip she could have taken.
A couple of friends and myself recently went to a Dylan concert. We watched this 77-year-old man still pounding us with his Nobel Prize-winning words. People complain that he keeps changing his words, his tunes, and his worldviews. He once said, “So what if I change ideologies like I change shoes? As long as I keep my stream of creativity up, I don’t owe nobody nothin.” I think I’ll try this philosophy.
Plant-based, whole foods
Talk about relative truth! With all the hot air, tornado-ing around the nutrition field – especially the Paleo diet – it seems as that the plant-based, whole food diet is relatively true. That is, it’s truer than all the rest. A single book, How Not to Die, by Michael Greger, MD, demonstrates this. Everything he says is backed up with solid, scientific research. His book has almost 2,000 footnotes, mostly pointing to scientific studies published in reputable medical periodicals. We can accept science or ignore it. (Also, check out his web site, Nutritionfacts.org.)
As we speak, I am surrounded by friends over 60 who over 80% of them seem to have some sort of cancer, heart problem, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or pre-diabetes. Is this an accident? Greger says that the cause is animal products and processed foods, which compose 80% of most of our diets. Our friend, himself, had an uncontrollable diet of junk food.
I’m into three months of a year-long program with Dr. Weiss, one of the leaders in this field. I’m trying to get over my addiction to sugar, starch, fat, and processed foods. They call this addiction The Pleasure Trap (a book by that title). I’m going to see Dr. Weiss for an evaluation tomorrow. I’ll let you know if he’s got any answers to nutritional health. Perhaps Weiss and Greger, like Jesus, are relatively true.
In March, my wife and I are going on a Vegan Cruise for ten days in the Caribbean. All the plant-based, whole foods big shots will be there: Campbell, Esselyn, Clapper, Weiss, and others (unfortunately not Greger). Hold onto you seats, I’ll tell you all about it.
In the meantime, you have a great Christmas and Hanukkah season and a relatively true 2019.
Love from RG and his family