best Christmas press ever!
Ho, that’s quite a claim, even in this season of good will.
It is Mid Winter and for five millennia European culture has centred on this darkest period of the year, we look forward to it for months, even though we groan as it grinds us into the carpet. Yet countless people are miserable, alone over Christmas.
One year when my wife was delivering a baby on a yacht in the Caribbean, I was ill, unable to shop. On Christmas Eve the sitting room echoed as merry folk walked past. A dear friend popped in, delivering an evening meal and as we sat eating she said, “Don’t believe you’re missing out. Beneath their fuelled cheer there’s few as happy as you.”
I often used to linger, chatting to a tramp who hogged a bench hidden amongst the bushes in London’s Hyde Park. At Christmas he was festooned with presents from those who felt sorry for him. “I feel sorry for them,” he winked, “they slog their guts out to pay for homes, they constantly seek the ideal life and for them happiness is illusive. They have no idea that I’m happy living here in this enormous garden.”
I always walked from his bench feeling richer, lighter, joyous. That showed me how our complex societies miss the point. He, a reject, a misfit, had the treasure the wealthy sought. OK, he wasn’t in paradise, sleeping under a tarpaulin slung over the back of the bench, snoring upon wooden pallets, wrapped in an ex-army sleeping bag, cooking on a donated camping stove, but he was happy.
It doesn’t take much to reach beyond what you think you need and discover happiness silently lying there waiting. Once you slow sufficiently to allow time’s absence to seep into you, you smile and even stop to chat with anyone. I’ve just spent ten minutes standing with only a T-shirt covering my torso as a freezing wind ripped through me. Talking to an old woman who has little to say and repeats herself to emphasise each point, I found, ignoring my feelings of boredom and cold, it was actually a pleasing experience.
Even on your own without such enticing company, you can linger with time and allow it to take you above self-obsession and thus discover the welling of inner peace. That is daydreaming, one thing we don’t do much of in these hectic times. Now there’s a lasting Christmas present for you!