Submitted by Ben Ayers on Wed, 2010-01-06 13:45.
It’s the holiday season and I find myself, yet again, vowing to be a more regular contributor to my blog in the coming year. It’s not that the outcry from my seven readers has been terribly deafening, but rather that sitting down to write is a very cathartic and healthy thing for me.
I’ve always found it interesting how we tip our hats to the notion of good health during the holidays, and how this is often in the midst of gross overindulgence and excess. I love how the irony of this (would it not be more appropriate, perhaps, to toast our celery sticks or vitamins while taking a break from yoga classes?) somehow sanctifies the blessing, makes it holy - that enjoyment and debauchery is somehow a keystone to health.
We look to health through love, enjoyment, and indulgence – but our culture also seeks health through sacrifice and abstinence. It seems to me that the true path must be, of course, somewhere in the neighborhood of where these two extremes intersect. We can see this in Christmas, in communion and one can see this in Nepal and, I would wager, wherever meat is eaten across the world.
In Kathmandu this past fall, yet another duck lost its life to avenge the wrathful goddess embodied in my motorcycle. We fasted, we took a life, and then we got wasted, ate duck barbecue, and fell slowly and perfectly asleep in front of some Bollywood movie that happened to be on television. This kept me protected for the coming year. One more trip around the sun, the blood and the meat of the duck mingled with my own and splattered across all of the important mechanical parts of my bike. How is it that we gain energy from that which we kill? And how does this apply to our own lives as individuals?
In the non-profit field, we all run the risk of developing a healthy martyr complex, and gaining a taste for the sweet syrup of self-righteousness. It’s far too easy to base our own sense of mental health and self-confidence upon the degree to which we offer pieces of ourselves up as sacrifices for the betterment of others. We so often pride ourselves upon forgoing indulgence (and, even, seeking out suffering) so that others may not have to. And so, then, how can others gain energy from that which we neglect in ourselves?
It seems to me that others cannot gain from sacrifice alone, or even at all. There must be a helping of joy, of laughter, of the headache-producing mirth that cauterizes our wishes and makes us hopeful for the distant future. That we must be careful not to praise only that which we, and those whom we admire, have given up in the name of others, but we must also look to that which has inspired us, and that which brings joy between us, and to emulate that.
So, to all seven of my cherished readers – Happy Holidays. I wish you and your loved ones much indulgence and debauchery, the power of pure and unabashed hope. I wish you, too, the sacrifice of New Years’ day. The reality, after the party, of beginning the daily alchemy of turning our hopes into footsteps, into fact.