The Christmas Message: No Guilt, No Greed

Mon 19 – Sun 25 Dec 2022

The meaning of Christmas

In my previous blog here, I wrote about how I am finding my feet with the new normality of post-work life. And it’s amazing how December seems to speed up in the last few days before Christmas Day until, bang, it’s here! I’ve had a good week and given a lot of thought to what Christmas really means. It’s so easy to see it as a celebration of consumption.

Rather, if you seek a spiritual meaning (and one that reaches beyond just committed Christians), then it must be that hope and optimism should be the central part of our lives. Religion cannot just be about guilt and sin. Rather the best we can do is if we seek to live a ‘good life’ by being our true selves and trying not to harm others.

And yes we give presents to each other but that is to show our love for them and if we can’t afford that then no problem, no guilt. It’s more important to give people a sign of our affection. Indeed, if we think in spiritual terms then how can we not be worried about a world where we create waste on a deadly scale and threaten the destruction of a planet that is ‘God given’.

“The point is to get your work done, and your work is to change the world.”

James Baldwin

Work Life Balance

The guilt trip to be ignored

I have no guilt about being gay and I have no regret about entering a period of semi / pre-retirement. And yet, now the government tells us that it’s people like me doing this who are the problem. It’s like the way LGBTQ+ people are guilt-tripped in complaining about the Qatar World Cup and backing gender recognition reform in Scotland. Blame the oppressed rather than their oppressors.

You can read the article here about how us people over 50 causing problems by not working. And the government is hoping this will change with us being financially forced back to work due to the impact of the economic problems they have overseen (stick) and through ‘mid-life MOTs’ (carrot). Never mind that by us oldies not working then it creates opportunities for young people.

Why have so many dropped out of the economy? Because we are exhausted, salaries are crap, and work culture is toxic. And who has created this situation? Not the government alone but they’ve played a huge part in changing society for the worst since the 1980s. One day I might go back to work if I can find a well-paid job doing something I enjoy. Until then, the government can sod off whilst I make the most of the money I’ve earned over the years in the few years that I have left.

Extinction Rebellion fighting climate change

Family and Friends

Mum and Dave

Dave went off very early on Xmas Eve (6.30am) to be with his mum for the season. I spent time with my mum. We all had really nice Christmas days. Dave and his mum went out for lunch and then with the massed ranks of the family. Me and mum didn’t have our Christmas take-away as was a possibility. Rather I cooked a lunch that was traditional Christmas though with a pie instead of turkey. LOL – no guilt.

Patrick and Phyllis

Me and Dave caught up with our friend Patrick on Wednesday morning. It was amazing last week how the weather just suddenly changed on Monday from a fortnight of freezing cold into mild and wet. Which makes it easier for him to get about. Also had a catch-up with my old mate Phyllis (nee Philip). Life seems to be going well for both of us.

Art and Culture

My thinking on the meaning of Christmas has, in large part, been influenced by a couple of very Christmassy cultural events.

A traditional Christmas carol service

With Dave on Wed night to his local church for this. It’s quite high Anglican and so it was a very traditional and theatrical event. So many of the songs and readings centre on the angels who appear to the various participants in the Nativity. And their central message is ‘comfort and joy’. They are imploring people to be happy and hopeful as to what is happening. To lose their sense of guilt and hopelessness.

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Then with Dave again on Thurs to the brilliant Price Charles Cinema in Leicester Square to see the sing-a-long version of this film. It was packed full of young people and children. Not usually my thing but a great sense of togetherness. The film follows the Charles Dickens classic and the message of this is if you live a good life and think of more than yourself then all will be well. The rejection of the need to feel guilt and doom that religion so often imposes on us.

One of the highlights was definitely before the film started when everyone wearing Christmas jumpers were instructed by Santa Claus to come on to the stage. Dave was the first one up! He was a bit upset that he didn’t get asked what he wanted for Christmas nor get a prize. This went to a girl aged 8 who said she wanted Harry Styles.

Dave's alternative nativity

Books and Reading

‘Project Hail Mary’ by Andy Weir

The first of two books I managed to finish in the run up to the big day. Andy Weir is a very good sci-fi writer who sets his stories in the near future. They are packed full of science but based very much on everyday life and current technology. If you haven’t read ‘The Martian’ then please do as it’s a beautifully detailed story of a lost astronaut managing to get back to Earth.

‘Project Hail Mary’ is focused around an expedition to a nearby star to solve a problem facing Earth. I don’t always understand the science and I have to assume it’s correct. But it’s good that Weir tries to explain it all rather than just saying amazing things happen without explanation.

However, it’s also quite cutesy Americana with our unlikely hero being a school teacher. Indeed, it’s so easy to see how this could be created as a movie as happened with ‘The Martian’. One of my pet hates (and I have no guilt for this) is where modern authors seem to write for TV and cinema. I suppose it’s how they make money but I find it annoying. Still a fun book and worth a read.

Phobos

‘The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho’ by Paterson Joseph

My second book completed last week and totally different to Weir’s. Paterson Joseph is probably better known as an actor but here he has written a book on the life of the eighteenth century abolitionist, writer and composer. And one of the first black people who lived in London who we actually know a fair amount of detail about their life.

Paterson bases his book on the supposed secret diaries that Sancho wrote for one of his sons near to his death. It’s a fictional biography but based on his real life. Indeed, if you want to know more about Sancho’s sadly short life (1729-1780) then you can read it here. If Christmas is about new hope and dropping guilt for minor things in our lives then rather feel guilt for big things like the slave trade and the way black people were commodified. Millions of people abused and tortured then their lives forgotten.

Black Lives Matter

My current reading books

I have two other books on the go. First, is ‘The Dispossessed’ – a classic piece of 1970s sci-fi by Ursula LeGuin. It’s a story of hope though I have read it before. I can’t remember the story but if it ends how I think it does then that will be very depressing.

My second book is the official biography of the brilliant writer Terry Pratchett. Non-fiction is not really my bag. And I often find biography difficult especially if it’s contemporary as you always knows what happened. But I don’t know too much about Terry’s everyday life so it’s intriguing if perhaps a wee bit over-nostalgic.

Health and Efficiency

Gym

The opposite of guilt is to be proud of yourself and delight in your achievements. Really pleased that I got to the gym four times last week: the mornings of Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri. Friday was particularly impressive as it was pouring with rain. All good sessions with me on my own most of the time. Though I was joined on Fri by an older guy like myself who I haven’t seen since before the pandemic. But he didn’t say ‘Hello’ – why are some people so unfriendly?

I also made a change to my normal routine with a greater emphasis on my core. I think I have ignored this too much in the past though just paying attention to my core ain’t going to give me a washboard stomach – the layers of fat will stop that. But it might make my body stronger overall and stop injuries. However the main problem last week was my knee playing up after exercising though this does go down relatively quickly.

92 gym sessions since the start of the year divided by the annual membership = £5.38 per session.

sexy santa

Weight

I was delighted with the weight loss I recorded in my previous blog (you can read it here). With hindsight, that really was connected to me not being too well. It was harder the week gone to keep up the reduced eating not least because of Christmas snacking. OK, time to take a pause. I am determined not to over-eat during this holiday period. But I also know that it will be easier to control my weight in more normal times. So no guilt and prepare for the future.

Sustainability

Christmas as a season of excess or as a period to remember others? I trend towards the latter. The story of the nativity contains gifts being given but it isn’t about screwing the planet, over-consuming, creating waste on a monumental scale, nor competing to see who gets more.

I finished my Christmas shopping though much of my gift-giving is simply about gifting money to the people I care about. They can then decide what they want to use the money for. Experiences over objects for many of them. It’s a bit like the question of how to get people out of poverty? Simple – give them money. All the evidence shows people with more income spend it on the things they need rather than wasting it.

Me and Dave shared our presents on Friday before he went to his mum’s on Saturday. We gave each other calendars as we always do. Plus he gave me wine and book tokens whilst I gave him Euros towards his spending money on our upcoming holiday.

lights on the tree

Meanwhile my attempt at frugal living continues. Not the sort of thing to write about in this blog, I’ll leave it for another time. But main thing to note at the moment is that I have never been so aware of my daily bank balance. Probably not a bad thing in itself.

Personal Development

Still making progress nearly everyday with Duolingo. And the good thing is that I’m doing both Spanish and German. Did miss one day but, hey, it’s Christmas. And if you can’t miss one day then, when can you? Also didn’t catch any instructive tech videos as I planned to and laid out in my previous blog. But, again, no point in feeling guilt. It will happen if it’s meant to.

The Week Ahead

  • Dave comes back on Tuesday. Nothing major planned for this week. TBH, I’m not a big fan of New Year’s; I just feel that we should be trying to make fresh starts all the time not just once a year.
  • Plan is gym on at least 3 days next week. Though I know I ain’t gonna hit my aim of getting down to my annual membership divided by attendance equalling £5 per session. No guilt, it’s not worth it. I’ll simply try to do better next year.
  • I have a plan to get a lot more culture in my life next week. I have booked in to see a French film on Boxing Day and I hope to see a couple more movies during the week.
  • Not sure if I will finish the Terry Pratchett biography (it’s quite detailed) but I will get to the end of ‘The Dispossessed’ – I really hope it’s not the ending I think it will be. And then the joy of starting new books.

And Finally…

Quotation by Einstein about value

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.