It was a quiet Christmas this year. And, while I did miss my children and grandchildren, who were celebrating elsewhere, it brought me into an introspective mood that otherwise would have evaded me.
Music is a wonderful part of the holiday mood and I listened to a lot of it. Traditional Christmas carols, preferably sung by the choir of King’s College, brought me back to the holiday seasons of my childhood. I saw my mother, covered with the dustings of her baking, the kitchen filled with the scent of cinnamon, cardamom, and allspice. How she worked so hard at making a festive Christmas that she was exhausted afterwards. And how she revelled in the results: the shining eyes of her children and the compliments from her friends.
I listened to Bach and Arvo Pärt, their tonal perfection soothing my restless spirit. And then I happened upon a remarkable little video: Tania Kassis performing Ave Maria accompanied by the Adhan “Allah Akbar”. A perfect melding of Islamic and Christian beliefs. And, even though I am aware that Muslims also revere Maria, the performance moved me to tears. Grief took hold of me and I found myself in my armchair, clutching the cat, sobbing away.
Surprised at this outburst, I examined the grief carefully, searching for traces of suppressed loneliness or self-pity. But that wasn’t lurking in the emotion, it was pure, unadulterated grief at the realisation that the world seems further away from peace than it ever was.
Some naive, childish part of me wants to believe that world peace will arrive, like a miraculous birth or even apocalypse. But I have learned enough about the evolution of society to know that there will always be people who distrust and hate those who are other than themselves.
And there will always be people who strive to understand each other and feel only good will towards all mankind. Not only mankind but to all life on earth. It is those people, and I count myself and my readers among them, who will have to work hard to achieve peace. Maybe not in our lifetime, but in that of our descendants.
So, this year my New Year’s resolution has very little to do with myself. I pledge to do all I can to achieve that state of grace described in the old text, “and on earth peace, good will toward men”. And I would add to that, good will toward all that lives.