“A stegosaurus in the forest munching on some hay,
Lay down to snooze in a bed of ooze and sadly passed away.
Her body changed and rearranged as she sank beneath the soil,
And over time she turned to slime and then she turned to oil.”
~ Tom Chapin
That’s not a blog entry-opening ‘inspirational quote’ line. That’s a verse from Tom Chapin’s ‘R-E-C-Y-C-L-E’ song that wrapped up my Christmas Caroling session at work this year.
Yes, this year’s Carol was no church choir. If anything it would’ve passed more as a heartfelt effort at indoor rain dance gathering. And a sweetly politically correct one at that. With everyone sitting in a circle creating impromptu ethnic tunes to ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ using all the traditional forms of percussion and tambourine you can name, and at one point resting to hum the second verse of ‘Silent Night’ (because you don’t just make people say ‘Jesus’ in a non-Christian-majority multicultural setting), the only thing missing was for someone to go dancing around a center-piece bonfire.
But then again, hardly anything about this year’s Christmas was a lot traditional. Apart from the rain-dance of a Christmas Carol, the distance from Home and thus the absence of Family presence, there was this year’s tree.
If you have been in a country that hugely celebrates the Chinese New Year festivity, this tree would probably remind you more of angpaos than Christmas stockings. And any random small convenience shop owner could walk in to my school library and confidently say they’ve got a better (read: more seasonally appropriate) tree than ours. But I beam at the sight of it the same way that the woman who’s responsible for this one would.
At the two high school boys who were too cool to admit that they’d rather cut out strips of green paper crepes, fold paper cranes, and crumple up cotton ball pieces into fake snow falls, than slack off on their Macs during study periods. At their insistence on keeping ‘Jingle Bells Rock’ on repeat on account it was pretty much the only Christmas Carol they were familiar with, while rejoicing in the spirit of making fun of my origami skills.
And the days leading up to December 25 were far from the touch of fraternity. For they were spent in intentional isolation for a self-service wish-fulfilling uninterrupted reading time in the little town of Ubud; cafe-hopping, round-town push-biking, used books shop raging, Julie Otzuka’s ‘When the Emperor Was Divine‘ and Anita Desai’s ‘Diamond Dust‘-demolishing, organic meal feasting, and meditational paddyfield strolling, while being shortly interluded by a lively and mind-opening encounter with a couple of South African and French legal experts who managed to get me all fired up about their TED talk-material Integrative Law Movement.
And yet as I sat in a half-occupied hall waiting for Christmas Eve’s midnight mass to begin, I couldn’t help to smile in the overcoming of a sudden heart-warming joy at the thought of it all.
When I had found myself one night earlier in December quietly crying on my bed in a somewhat fetal position – having just been hit by the notion that I wouldn’t have the same ‘perfect’ traditional endless-company Christmas I had last year – it didn’t occur to me that this year’s would awaken me to a whole new way of music-experiencing in the midst of a non-traditional Caroling where music was made from nothing but simple technology, communal energy and natural synergy.
That it would re-energize me with at least a half year’s worth of inspiration for more creativity and humanity-changing action-taking through a friendly lone bookpacking trip.
Or that it would see to it that I know and understand, that nothing in life is a consolation prize, when you put love and the joy in people’s hearts before a perfect display of pride.
That same night in the hall, as I wondered how those several days – despite their resulting in deep contentment and satisfaction – have honored the meaning of the very season I was celebrating (as I hadn’t exactly been participating in the traditional giving and sharing practice as my popular culture has been dictating for years), and started further wondering what it even is that I was celebrating, the Pastor’s sermon answered me with a story.
Of an ordinary day, in an ordinary place, when an ordinary family welcomed the birth of a child. A child who grew in an ordinary time, under ordinary circumstances, among ordinary people. A child who, despite his ordinary upbringing, became a man of extraordinary presence, extraordinary actions, and extraordinary love.
He then reminded us of another story, of a hundred over other similar stories. Of the hundred over people who sat at the congregation that night. Of our own births, of our own ordinary circumstances, and of our own innate capacity to become Extraordinary.
Of the underlying message that Christmas, is the celebration of the birth of Christ Jesus as much as it is of ours. It is the remembrance of the beginning of his extraordinary power as much as it is of ours.
The realization of which, both brought my body comforting warmth and trembling silence. At the thought of what a whole year’s worth of retreating into a reflective and restorative solitary has brought for me this year, the dawning of a slightly more refined self, with a slightly more refined mind and a refined heart; a new birth.
But also, at the sudden overwhelming realization of what that carries; the weight of my presence, the immense value of its mere existence. But most importantly, at the current absence of its substantial worth to the world, the remaining abundance still of its extraordinary capacity.
Some have said and believed that December this year marks the ending of an existence, an era, a something. I’m not sure about an ending, and I don’t know that much about the universe. But I believe in beginnings, and I know only as much as I have seen. And what I have seen, is a birth of mine own. And apparently, in our no longer ordinary circumstances, that counts for something. So I guess, I’ll be damned if I don’t make it the only thing it’s meant to be; Extraordinary.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Beginning =)
“Ar-Ee-Cee… Why-Cee-El-Eeee.. That’s the waaay… It’s supposed to beee.. The Earth recycleeees.. And so do weee.. Ar-Ee-Ceee! Why-Cee-El-Eeeeeee…!!”