How to believe when believing has a rap sheet
When I was a kid and Christmas came around, my favorite thing to do was listen to carols on the reel-to-reel tape player and lie under the Christmas tree watching the heat-activated ornaments go around and around and around.
I guess it was an early form of meditation for me — lights dancing on the ceiling, the sounds of songs I only heard once a year filtering into my brain.The time and place and space not to think. No playlists to pick through on Spotify or YouTube, just the transistor radio (my best friend) playing most requested Christmas hits, and my dad’s reel-to-reel.
During my high school years, when everything got a bit grim — what with Catholic girls’ school and siblings gone, expectations to meet, boys not to meet, an overly active brain and underdeveloped heart — it was my go-to for escape once a year, lying under that Christmas tree and letting everything fall away.
I don’t know how much Jesus — or Christ consciousness — entered my being, but there was momentary peace, something that probably qualified as a spiritual shot in the arm. After all, there was a rift in our house: my mom, a French Catholic, held her religion close and kept it private. My dad, an agnostic, allowed Catholicism in around the edges only because he could not fathom a world without churches or without rules. Mainly, their children hung in the balance.
In my early twenties, my New York City years, what took the place of that feeling of the magic of twinkling holiday lights were the sum total the lights of the city at night, from above and below — the hotel lights and car lights, lights from interiors, lights on the rivers and in the harbor. Mesmerizing and deeply stirring, the lights also told stories of other lives, lives that I would strain to imagine, to feel as if they were my own. Regularly I would go to St Thomas Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue to hear the famous boys’ choir, which took the place of the reel-to-reel and the transistor radio but allowed me the same feeling of space inside, and even, at times, of being transported. One might cry listening to such music; one might cry and wonder what crucible of alchemy was happening deep within one.
When I moved to Colorado, thirty five years ago now, ceiling lights and city lights vanished into snow falling deep and then sparkling, radiating light outward from intense whiteness, billions and billions of crystals blanketing the land in soft layers.
Essentially, I believe we are all of us creatures longing for light to warm us, warm our hearts and spirits, captivate us, and bring us peace. In this semi-soft and malleable state of awareness, we can imagine a better life and start believing again. Believing that anything is possible — if believing itself is.