The hamster wheel at rest

By Henning Kullak-Ublick, March 2021

For centuries, life in our latitudes was shaped by the recurring change of the four seasons.

On the long summer days it took place mainly outside, while on the long, dark and snow-covered winter nights it retreated into the seclusion of the huddled, often dim houses. This was the time of the celebration of a light that still shines in the deepest darkness and promises hope to all people, poor or rich, young or old, strong or weak, sad or lost.

In large parts of Europe it was celebrated with an inwardness that is often as alien to us today as the biting cold, the deep darkness and the solemn expectation that slowly but surely approached during Advent. The birth in the manger “twixt ox and ass”, the poverty and homelessness of the parents, the revelation for the shepherds and the irrepressible joy of the heavenly hosts touched people again and again, in times of war and need as well as in the much rarer times of peace. For the child we are talking about here dwells in each of us.

All major religions and cultures are familiar with pausing and silence, creating oases in the midst of the thousand important things in the hustle and bustle of life, in which we can hear again what actually addresses us as the essence. This year, life has been tumultuous in a way that has thrown our society as a whole, but especially parents and teachers, off its usual tracks in our responsibility for children. Almost everything connected with the virus is in dispute; the peace that everyone longs for seems far, far away.

But we are not helpless when it comes to how our children can experience and master the present. For they feel very precisely whether we still have a clear view of what is really worth living and striving for, even in such a distorted time. Do we still marvel at the inexpressible beauty of the world? Beyond our doubts, worries and fears, do we also feel how others are doing? For example, the children in large parts of South America who have not been allowed to go to school for almost the whole year and probably won’t be for a long time yet? Do we want to do something for these children? Or do something nice for an old or sick person? Organise a Christmas party for the animals in the forest? Or just cuddle up and read a story together?

The Christmas we might remember from when we were children doesn’t exist out there. But we can bring the hamster wheel to a temporary halt – for our children and the child in ourselves. Pausing instead of just hanging on. Every deeper sensation, every wonder, every beautiful thought, every bit of loving attention is a reality that connects rather than separates. Because, speaking with Anaïs Nin: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

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