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The photo on top is my spouse Muriel on the left and my sister Taeko on the right taken in South Africa. Picture on the right is me, Tad Mitsui and my cat, George.
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MANY MERRY CHRISTMAS
There are many ways to celebrate during Christmas time. At the kindergarten, an American teacher brought pieces of roasted turkey for us to find the “real taste of Christmas.” I was unimpressed; “What a boring tasteless meat!” At my father’s church, we had a huge pot of pork and vegetable miso stew for the Christmas party. Growing up in Japan, Christmas for me was Christmas Candle Light Service and the party afterward. Many Christians are converts, so they do not celebrate Christmas at home for other family members are not Christians. Christmas presents were exchanged between church members. Santa did not come to homes; he sold merchandise at department stores.
When I lived in Switzerland on the first week of Advent, we got together at the church with mulled wine, oranges and walnuts, and enjoyed conversation. In South Africa and Lesotho, we had “Carols and Candle Lights” at the soccer pitch and other outdoor venues. Christmas in Southern hemisphere comes in the middle of summer, so you get out into the cool of the night and sing Carols and watch Christmas Pageant. Too hot to roast turkey in 40 C.
At drinking joints in Tokyo, you hear “Merry Christmas” more often than any other places. No wife, no kids, just buddies from work. Most of them are non-Christians. Christmas Eve is the time of serious boozing. They take home cakes to appease unhappy wives. In Lesotho, when you hear “Merry Christmas,” you see an extended hand. It’s a tradition missionaries started. They had no family Christmas, so only thing they saw with the word “Christmas” was charity handout. Watching how Europeans celebrated Christmas they learned drinking and fighting. Christmas was the busiest day at the hospital; many broken ribs and cracked heads.
We go to Toronto for a combined Christmas/Hanukkah celebration. We light Menorah and eat turkey. Once we found a whole family of in-laws in my daughters house escaping the cold dark home due to the power failure by ice storm. My son-in-law had to go to a drug store on Christmas Eve, only stored still open, and bought presents for the children from Jewish side of the family. Theirs were not under the tree; not their custom.
Christmas season is the time of love and togetherness. It’s called in different names, and people greet differently. Even among Christians they do differently. But the spirit of the season binds us together. Let us adapt and celebrate .
FAKE NEWS OR GOSPEL
Hitler’s chief propagandist Joseph Goebbles said, “A lie told once remains a lie. Repeated ten thousand times, people will believe it’s true. Then it’s the truth.” People who watch Fox News believe that CNN and Washington Post are “fake news.” They know their tribe is always right and facts are wrong.
Humans are the only organism that impose code of ethics based on ideas like ideology and religion. Arguably it is for the well-being of people. The fact is often, it is a way for the powerful to keep their power. Karl Marx called it “super structure” created by those who own “means of production.” So he called religion “opium of people.” Japanese historical novelist Ryotaro Shiba called it “Kyokoh” – “artificial systems of thoughts.” Napoleon Bonaparte called it “Pack of lies agreed upon.”
Yuval Noah Harari, a historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem puts a positive spin on those sets of ideas. He says “Gossips helped us to cooperate. Mythology maintained law and order. Money gave us something we can trust. Contradictions created culture.” Only humans act on mentally conceived ideas. They enable us act voluntarily against natural instinct, making us distinct from other animals. Could it be the result of eating the forbidden fruit?
Money, for example, is powerful because people have faith in its value. Its importance surpassed religion for many people. But fact is; it is amorphous imagination held commonly. It’s based its worth on trust. Its value is dependent on faith in what’s on paper. “Bit Coin” is such a system invented recently, worth billions of dollars traded publicly. Once that trust is lost, it’s worthless like Venezuelan and Zimbabwean currencies. ‘Nation’ as a concept has the power to bind people together, to create laws and transform bunch of strangers into a cohesive entity called “country.” But it is an artificial notion that is based on the history agreed upon and the myths commonly shared.
Harari helped me to rejuvenate my belief in the importance of art, music, myths and religion. They make us think and give us ideas. Ideas are powerful and can bring benefits to the real world. They can delude us too, like opium. Since the beginning of civilization, humans fought over differences in doctrines and ideologies. Millions died for them. How do we distinguish Gospel from fake news? It requires wisdom. What is wisdom then? Good question!