There are so many adjectives to describe the holidays; they are joyful, crazy, stressful and fun, to name a few. From Thanksgiving to the celebration of the New Year, people all over the world jump through hoops in order to spend quality time with those they love. This time can be about many things but, regardless of one’s religious affiliation, it’s safe to say the notion of one’s community is paramount. Whether that’s family or dear friends, the holidays are the time to be with loved ones.
As human beings, we are made to live in community but community can be a funny thing. It can be messy, ugly and overwhelming. Yet, we need it, we crave it. John Donne was right (see below): we aren’t islands. We can’t get through this life without a little help. I think of the immeasurable grief so many families in Newtown, CT are bearing right now. This load is just too much for a few — it must be shared. A community, not just individuals, must shoulder such unfathomable loss. Again, it is just too much. So we reach out to one another and offer what we can.
In this life, we seem to have both the good and the terrible to call us back into community. The holidays remind us what matters and tragedies knock us down so that we can do nothing but remember what’s important.
All of this talk of community makes me think of the sound of “OM.” Om, or Aum, is the Hindu symbol representing the energetic vibration of all life. It represents our membership in the community of living things and, when chanted with others, can be a way of sending out positive energy into the world. We chant it together during a yoga class and our voices unite. Different notes, different voices and different stories are offered up to the world. It’s not necessarily a pretty sound but, because we are participating in it together and sending it out, it can become beautiful. I think this cacophony we offer mirrors the messiness and beauty of this life in community.
I hope this holiday draws us all nearer to our communities. May we live all the year in gratitude that we, indeed, are not islands.
Om shanti, om peace.
No Man Is An Island
by John Donne
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.