It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us**. This is what Charles Dickens wrote in 1859, describing the years leading up to the French Revolution and the following Jacob Reign of Terror at the end of the 18th century. But it could have been written today, describing the year that has past and the weeks leading up to another one. Today it is the 13th of December and so the 12 Days of Christmas have began, leading up to the day that is the one day that is celebrated almost all over the world. Almost.
I always believe that ones biggest strength is also ones biggest weakness. Our world knows many different cultures, which is a strength as we can learn from each other and enrich our lives with the experiences and habits of our neighbors and vice versa. It is also a weakness because it closes our minds to those experiences and habits. Experiences and habits that seem so alien to us but, when you would open your heart and soul to them, really are not so much different from what we are used to ourselves. The world has always been lead by the strongest. In the past those were kings and queens, leaders of large cities, small nations or powerful countries. Today those leaders are mostly driven by corporations and economics. But what really rules the world, and what always has, is religion. That one thing that defines and divides our cultures.
We have come to the end of yet another year, the 14th in the second millennium, and we haven't really gotten any further than where we were 2,000 years ago. Sure we made progress in our intellectual development. We are so much more mature, so much more intelligent, so much smarter than before. But we still make the same mistakes, over and over again. In our countries young people, people who are supposed to hold the future in their hands, are being recruited to fight a holy war that isn't theirs to fight but that we have been fighting since the dawn of days. A holy war that is only holy because we, human beings, made it so by inventing that word. And by creating the things we believe worth fighting for. The ability to create is a huge strength of the human race. As it is, it also turns out to be our biggest weakness.
Each culture, each religion, celebrates it's own day of delivery. We need that, and that's okay because it is a day or a time of reflection. For Christians it is Christmas, for Jews its Chanukah and for Muslims it is Ramadan. This year, coincidentally Christmas and Chanukah are coming together on the 24th of December. How beautiful, how symbolic would it have been if Ramadan would have been equally held at this time of the year this year. Alas, it isn't so and if that is a sign, our differences will not be resolved. How simple would it be if we could just forget about those believes that we installed ourselves with so much conviction we feel the need to fight for them. How simple would it be if we could just return to the origin of Christmas when it was simply a celebration of light, of thanksgiving and of togetherness, and a celebration that was held throughout the then known world, regardless ones background. How good would it be if we could sing "It's Christmas time and there's no need to be afraid"**, and really mean those words for each other.
2014 is coming to an end and it was the best of times and the worst of times. We are living in an age of wisdom and age of foolishness. And the only ones to blame are us. –BM-
*A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens, 1859
**Do They Know It's Christmas Time, Bob Geldoff, Midge Ure, 1984
Cover photography by Nige Rorbach.
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