Did you catch the flash mob video of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus that was performed in a Food Court at the Welland Seaway Mall in late Nov’10.? It garnered a few thousand views before it went viral and watched around the world 20 million times in the past few weeks.
The creativity of human beings never ceases to amaze me. I love the tremendous display of creativity everywhere this time of year, such as the wonderful Xmas tunes that play nonstop on radio stations; the reruns of beloved movies that crowd the TV schedule; the new movie releases for the holidays; the abundance of goods that can be bought for presents; the vivid colors of home and office decorations : each one the product of creative minds, hearts, and hands.
Embedded in this creative explosion of sight and sound is a message of hope. Yes, the holiday season is commercialized. Thousands of jobs are involved in producing, marketing, selling, distributing, and servicing what we enjoy during this season. But, the mere fact of their existence doesn’t account for their success. All these holiday goods and services tap into our human nature.
Why bother to create anything if not for the hope of a better moment, or hour, or day, or year, or future?
The holiday products of our creativity are an expression of the Hope that beats eternal in our human breasts, captured poignantly in the photograph featured here, shot in Seville (Spain) in 1933, by Henri Cartier-Bresson, who became known for his photographs of apparent contradictions: pictures that left mysteries unexplained.
This famous photo depicts a run-down alley surrounded by decaying walls, strewn with rubble randomly stacked in thick piles lying on the street, and riddled with bullet holes dotting gray walls. The setting alone evokes feelings of sadness and despair.
The photo reminds me always of my travels in the Mediterranean, where I often saw school children kicking soccer balls against the walls of ancient churches. Coming from Canada, from the new world, with its recent history of European settlement, I often thought to myself : “Hey, you kids, stop that, don’t you have any respect for the sacred!”
The sacred, of course, is clearly visible–not in the bricks and mortar of church walls—but in the children. Within the grim alley scene of this photo, children are playing. They wear dirty and tattered clothes, as one might expect in such a setting, but like playing children everywhere, they laugh with carefree joy. In the foreground, a tiny boy on crutches hobbles away from two other boys, his face lit up with a broad grin. One boy is laughing so hard he has to hold his side. Others lean on the cracked walls, beaming with delight.
It is easy to spot the contrast — and the point. Joy amidst the rubble of life. Laughter amongst its ruins.
Life is full of contradictions. Even as we spread good cheer throughout our homes, offices and neighborhoods, others suffer unspeakable tragedies.
Life is hard, excruciatingly so for many people on earth. Hope keeps us going through trials and tribulations. Hope for more joy in life!
The creativity of the Christmas season is like a brilliant flash of light shining in winter darkness. Joy breaks through to touch our common humanity. It reminds us, perhaps, of why we labor.
We cannot avoid pain, however hard we try, as old Scrooge learned only too well in the wonderful classic A Christmas Carol. But we can avoid joy.
We cannot escape hardship and trouble, but we can miss out on much of life’s peace and laughter.
If you feel as if you could use more joy this holiday season, try the following:
Spend time daily creating something you truly enjoy—a special moment, an event, a gift.
Laugh heartily and frequently with family and friends, even strangers.
Cultivate within yourself an attitude of hope, and give free reign to where it takes your thoughts and ideas.
Enter a sacred space—a church, temple, mosque, synagogue, or chapel—and wrap yourself in the knowledge that you are not alone.
You’ll still have problems, but through it all, you’ll find hope and joy, even in the rubble.