Anxiety increases as we approach the 'big' turn
by: Adrien Blanchette
As the turn of the year 2000 approaches we find
an increasing anxiety about our reliance on technology and fear
of the failure of the latest of mankind's great achievements the
Computer Age. But there is nothing new under the sun! Mankind has
always doubted its own ability to control Nature and the world about
itself. Doomsayers have always appeared at precisely the time when
we are prone to celebrate the most. They show up just in time to
make sure that we don't go overboard in self praise and self congratulations.
They predict disaster of all kinds calculated to bring us down a
peg or two and remind us that we are mere mortals and not gods.
So here we are....about to have the greatest celebration
in 1,000 years and yet that nagging doubt is there...... will it
all come crashing down around our ears? Just as travelling preachers
covered Europe when the year 1000 was approaching with their predictions
of the end of the world as they knew it; so our own doomsayers are
warning that we too are mere vulnerable mortals.
As we go through the hectic preparations for Christmas
we often feel overwhelmed with the enormity of the "task"
with which we are faced. The preparations seem to go on and on;
sending greeting cards; keeping in touch with friends and family,
often renewing contact with people far away some of whom we communicate
with only at Christmas time; buying gifts for loved ones and friends;
preparing the Christmas decorations of green boughs with red berries
and tinsel; lighting Christmas lights everywhere; setting up and
decorating the tree; attending all those Christmas get-togethers
and parties; eating and drinking until we feel that we are about
to burst like an over-stuffed turkey! At times the feeling is so
overwhelming that we feel that we are losing control...... everything
is being done to excess...... the season and its exuberant need
to celebrate at this time is taking over our lives and we are almost
powerless to resist the urge to spend too much, eat and drink too
much, celebrate too much.
We say to ourselves that's it! Enough is enough!
Right after the holidays I'm going to stop all this nonsense....no
more eating and drinking....no more partying....no more spending
money....I'm going to deny myself every indulgence and fast until
I'm back in shape and ready to face the world as a new person. I
might even make a list of New Year's resolutions to help me resolve
to be a renewed person!
Little do we realise as we repeat this ritual every year that we
are acting on primitive urges that go back to the dawn of our evolving
as human beings. But the need to celebrate at this time of year
followed by a period of denial is so deep-rooted that, in spite
of many attempts to abolish the practice, it has lasted for ages
and has become the most universally accepted event throughout the
Western World. This practice goes back to the time when mankind
first began to make attempts to control his own environment.
It would seem that mankind evolved first as hunters
and gatherers.... hunting for animals in the land around them and
gathering whatever edible plants, berries and fruit available from
the natural environment around them. Of course the seasons of the
year naturally provided a good supply of game in summer and an abundance
of food in the autumn of the year followed by a period of want during
the winter season. You can imagine our early ancestors first attempts
to preserve food in order to get them through the winter months
Grains, vegetables, dried fruits and berries, gathered
during the autumn harvest would be stock-piled to provide food through
the winter. So this ritual of gathering and stock-piling an excess
of food became associated with autumn and the waning of the power
of the sun which began immediately after this season. Our early
ancestors soon realised that if the sun continued to get weaker
and did not recover its full strength that they were all doomed.
So it seemed only right to pray that whatever forces existed which
could weaken the sun's power should be appeased and begged to restore
it. It seems only natural to believe that goodness is rewarded and
wrong-doing is punished.....we have all experienced this in our
So the connection between the withdrawing of the power of the sun
and mankind's "wrong-doing" is soon made.....if mankind
did "wrong" they are punished and the sun's power will
be denied to them.....if they do "good" and repent of
their "wrong-doing" they will be rewarded and the sun's
power will be restored. Stock-piling food for one's self while others
are in want and the taking of food belonging to others, leaving
them to starve through a long winter, would soon become associated
with the denial of the power of the sun in the minds of these primitive
peoples. Mankind would feel to be in the grip of powers beyond it's
control....the seasons of the year dictating their actions and forcing
them to react in ways which would bring punishment on them later
As mankind progressed they made more and more attempts to control
their own lives and their environment....evolving from the "gathering-hunting"
stage to a more domesticated agrarian life where they could begin
to cultivate plants and husband domesticated animals....the beginning
of farming as we know it. In all of this, mankind was faced with
new problems and decisions.
The domestication of animals such as cattle, pigs
and fowl was possible during the summer months when the animals
could find food for themselves in the fields but it was not yet
possible to sustain them over the winter months because the animals
would be competing for the very food that was stock-piled for the
farmer's needs. So began the practice of slaughtering all of the
excess animals in the late autumn or early winter when they were
no longer able to feed themselves in the fields. This slaughter
would naturally be followed by great feasting where everyone ate
as much as they could with the knowledge that they would soon be
going through a period of denial and want throughout the winter
The harvest of fruits and vegetables at this time
also created a surplus of food stuffs adding to the festivities
and the excesses of the season. The slaughter of animals also became
associated with the appeasement of the power that was denying the
sun to mankind, for didn't the sun begin to regain its power shortly
after the animals were slaughtered? As the days grew shorter and
colder there was a need for fire to provide the light and heat which
the sun was denying us. So the practice of lighting fires and even
the sacrificing of animals and foodstuffs in the fires themselves
became acts symbolic of feeding the sun to restore its own power
to benefit mankind.
It is no co-incidence that the birth of Jesus Christ Our Redeemer
is celebrated precisely at this time. Jesus calls Himself "The
Light of The World"; He is recognized as "The Redeemer"
who has come to atone for all of man's wrong doing. The 21st day
of December being the shortest day of the year is precisely that
point at which mankind is most in need of the restoration of "The
Light" and in need of a "Redeemer" and so the Son
(Sun) of God is born at that time. Differences in calculation of
the shortest day of the year have brought it to today's date of
the December 25, but no matter, it is still close enough to satisfy
that deep need which is naturally rooted within each one of us;
a need to celebrate in excess and abundance in order to drive away
the darkness, followed by a need to repent of our excesses.
In reality we are still not much further ahead of our early ancestors...life
is life for all that....and mankind is still mankind even as we
prepare to enter the second millenium since the birth of Christ.