Merry Christmas to All!

Today is Christmas.  2012.  Christmas is a holiday celebrated around the world, and though it is claimed by Christians as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and the holiday is named thusly, its roots predate Christianity and it draws on ancient celebrations from many religions.  I have always been drawn to Christmas for this reason.  On this day, families all around the world are gathering together to share a meal, gifts, and music, whether they are Buddhist, atheist, Catholic, or attend the Westboro Baptist Church.  Even those who reject the holiday’s customs and commercialism often gather in groups to share food and drink while protesting the holiday…and are, in essence, still embodying the spirit of Christmas.

This Christmas is different.  I can feel it in my bones.  Sure…every year we think, “Christmas just isn’t like it used to be.”  Life is more stressful.  We’re obligated to attend a seemingly-endless line of parties.  We have to travel to several family get togethers in the space of a week.  There are gifts and travel to budget for, when there’s just no wiggle room in the budget.  I would venture a guess that the majority of us GROAN when we hear the first Christmas song on the radio in late October or early November.

But this year, Christmas is REALLY different.  Eleven days ago, twenty children were slaughtered at their school in Connecticut.  On the same day, almost the same number of students in a Chinese school were stabbed.  Three days before that, people were attacked in a mall in Portland and two more died.  Four days ago, a man in Pennsylvania killed three people, thinking the world was about to end.  Then yesterday, Christmas Eve, firefighters in New York responded to a house fire set by an individual who proceeded to open fire on them as they approached, killing two of them.  It has been an awful, bloody December.  And those of us with tender hearts find ourselves wondering what has happened to the world, and how on earth we can ever hold on to our faith in our fellow man.

Politicians, preachers, and purveyors of sensationalist journalism love to toss around the word “evil.”  They use the term prolifically to describe countries and governments, agendas and assassins.  Suicide bombers are evil.  Terrorists are evil.  Adam Lanza (the man who was involved in the Connecticut school shooting) was evil.

I believe in my heart that very, very few evil people have walked this earth.  I think if you look into the heart of Adam Lanza, or a suicide bomber in the Middle East, what you’ll find is actually a lack of love.  When someone feels absolutely surrounded by love from all directions, it’s incredibly hard to be anything but ecstatic, fulfilled, and joyful.  But for those who have trouble connecting to the people around them…especially those like Adam Lanza who are deeply socially challenged and find themselves laughed at, picked on, and shunned…the results can lead them to a horrifically dark place.

So while our country, and the world at large, is about to enter a great debate about the tools wherewith people commit mass murder (namely semi-automatic weapons), I prefer to take a different road this holiday season, and talk instead about love.

Because, if Adam Lanza had felt loved and accepted by his schoolmates and compatriots, rather than feeling like an outcast, I believe those wretched deeds at Sandy Hook elementary would never have happened.  I believe that if the young men recruited to be suicide bombers by terrorist organizations had been surrounded by loving friends, family, and community, they would not be so easily misled by zealots.  In fact, tragedies like Jonestown and the Branch Davidians in Waco, which seem so far in the past, resulted in vast, tragic loss of life because these dangerous cults offered people who otherwise felt like outcasts a sense of love and community and belonging.  Wanting to be loved is our most basic need.  Water and food may feed the body, but unless the soul is also fed, we see the horrific results.

So before we condemn those who seem to be evil to the core…or those like Westboro Baptist who seem to spread hate incongruously to their fellow Christians…let’s first realize that these people are probably all suffering from a tragic lack of love in their lives.  Sure, Adam Lanza’s mother loved him deeply, and I can’t imagine how she would feel today were she still alive…but the love of one person is rarely enough, especially for someone who is deeply troubled.  We need to feel loved by everyone around us…not just those who share our religion, or share the same blood.  In fact, we need to feel loved by people who believe the complete opposite of us.  For then we know the love is unconditional and not circumstantial.

So my Christmas message to you today is to love everyone around you…especially the ones who are hardest or most uncomfortable to love.  None of us will ever be able to process the tragedies of the past two weeks.  We will never understand why.  We will never be at peace with what has happened, especially to the innocent children.

But the best way to prevent such horrific events in the future is to spread the love.  It is foolish to think that government legislation will ever solve this problem.  The war on drugs will never be won.  Nuclear bombs will never disappear.  Semi-automatic weapons are here to stay, whether they are legal or not.  But if we each do our job of loving everyone within arm’s reach, and if EVERYONE will do this, it will be a lot harder for someone to feel so isolated…so rejected by society…so downtrodden…that they feel their only way out is to enact such a heinous crime.

People ask me all the time why I’m such a happy person.  And the answer began in 1977 with a family that loved and still loves me, and a large clutch of incredible people all around the world who constantly remind me how much I am loved and needed.  It’s impossible to be unhappy with a life like that.  So whether YOU feel that way or not, you certainly can do your part to ensure that everyone around you feels that love coming from you.

Some people tell me, “I come from a broken home.  I haven’t spoken to my mom in a decade.  My dad is a drunk and doesn’t care whether I live or die.  I don’t know how to love.”  Which is, excuse my French…total bullshit.  You are human.  The ability to love is encoded into every cell in your body.  Take a look at a sleeping puppy.  Gaze on the Grand Canyon.  Go down the slide at a playground nearby or climb a tree and watch the sunset.  Your heart will surge.  It doesn’t matter how deeply you’ve been hurt before…you have the unending and infinite capacity to love.  And the more love you share with those around you, the more love will come washing over you.  It’s the perfect universal commodity and it’s everything that money is not.  The more love you invest, the more love you get back, the happier everyone is, the better the world becomes.

So this Christmas, as you contemplate your life and the upcoming year, instead of making a resolution to lose weight…to save money…to quit smoking…why not make a resolution that will make the entire world a better place?  Commit to loving more people in your life…especially the ones who are hard to love.  Especially the ones you feel awkward or uncomfortable around.  And most especially, the ones who haven’t done a very good job of loving you back.  (It’s really hard for a one-sided feud to persist for long.)

I wish you and your family and friends the most wonderful holiday season, filled with love and joy.  Merry Christmas!

26 Responses to Merry Christmas to All!

  1. Very well said, Ben! I got a new born son this summer. And this Christmas just made me realize the importance of loving one and another. The tragic at sandy hook crushed my heart. We should all be thankful we can spend holidays with our love ones. I hope your Christmas is great! Wish good a happy new year as well!

  2. Teared up while reading this. Love you benny! Merry Christmas!

  3. Very well said. the last part made me think of my sister, the ones who are hard to love. Sadly she is stuck in the past and constantly brings up to my mom how she doesn’t know me because she left home when I was six. 35 years later she still doesn’t let it go and is perplexed because her plan to be a married woman and by fun things sometimes isn’t realized.

  4. Merry Christmas Ben and thanks for the wonderful post.

  5. Oh and she also brought up how she gave me “Good advice”. She said not to adopt my sted daughter because things might not last and I’d be struck paying. Me to be ex and I discussed it but never had the money and that is the only reason I never officially adopted her, though it makes no difference to me and her, I am Daddy. Yea it actually hurt hearing my sister say she gave good advice.

  6. well once again you have me speechless. Merry Christmas Ben.

  7. Thank you, Ben, this is so beautifully said. YOU (and your love) are indeed the change we need to see in the world. Every person can and does make a difference! I was thinking the same thing about love changing everything were laws never will. I see a world where people turn in their guns, wondering why they ever thought they wanted guns in the first place. Where everyone has a warm and safe place to live, with enough clean food and water and necessities to be comfortable and secure. Where we truly have Peace on Earth. And it can happen in the twinkling of an eye. John Lennon said it so simply: All You Need is Love!

  8. Simply beautiful! Thank You for that and Merry Christmas.

  9. Well said Ben! Merry Christmas!

  10. What a wonderful Christmas message! I completely agree. I hope your words are read by some who are struggling and it makes a positive impact in their lives. Thank you for this post and constantly spreading your positive energy and love to the world. Merry Christmas! (…and I love your pictures <3 )

  11. Beautiful article, Ben. But Adam Lanza’s mother was his first victim before he went to the school. She was found dead in their home. People say there were 26 victims, but, unfortunately, there were 27 that day. She had started the process of trying to have her son committed, they believe that is what triggered his attack. Hopefully, with an abundance of love, we can prevent any tragedy like this from happening again. Merry Christmas and God bless!

    • Deedra, thanks for the note. I knew that she was the first person Adam had killed, I meant to say “I can’t imagine how she would feel if she was here today.” I edited it. Thanks and Merry Christmas!

  12. Thank you very much, Wish you a very happy hollyday season for you and partner and both families. Maria João from Portugal.

  13. Wonderful post, Ben.

    I never even put up my Christmas tree this year. I’m usually one of those ridiculously organized people who is never late for anything, but I still have yet to make and ship/hand out my annual Christmas treats. All of the holiday celebrating just feels like going through the motions, and I couldn’t figure out why until I read your piece. So much death, and as you so eloquently put, such a lack of love.

    That being said, I’d like to take a moment to explain why the Westboro Baptist Church is so nasty. The hate they spread is just a symptom. The root problem is that are very, very scared people. What starts off as a fear of sin and going to hell gradually morphs into a fear of the world around them, with a genuine conviction that the Devil is literally hiding around every corner. Their definition of love is perverted from misinterpreted Biblical passages into a soul-crushing, affection-less monstrosity that is manifested via “discipline”, absolute adherence to arbitrary rules, and spiritual perfectionism (what they believe to be the only pure form of love). I know this because it’s how I grew up; not within Westboro Church itself, but in a extremist Fundamental Baptist household. I knew HOW to love, I just had no idea how to express it, nor had anyone to express it to! I believe that not having someone (or something) to love is just as detrimental as not being loved. It’s been twelve years since I left home, and subsequently I can now look at the photo of people like Adam Lanza and no longer identify with them. Publicly, I give the credit of my heart’s transformation to my husband and our menagerie of rescued companion animals. But privately, I’ve always known that the power of love is its own thing and is responsible for healing. As you said, there’s a level of responsibility upon a person to be open to giving and/or receiving love- either play victim to the harshness of life and be miserable, or take a risk and open the heart.

  14. I gave this another read after having some fairly thought provoking conversations about this situation with some friends with very differing opinions and when I brought this post up, it was interesting to see how quickly everyone kind of merged their own thought into a version of your thinking. I think many of our societal ills begin when people are not loved from the moment they are born. I work with children from difficult circumstances and some of them do not have love of any kind in their lives and you can see, at very young ages how much they crave and need it, even though they may never have experienced it. And when they are shown even the tiniest bit of love and support, the bloom.

  15. Ben, I just want to say that I felt grateful after reading this article. With a melancholic temperament, it is easy to think that one is always left out and unwanted, that everything is never enough, and that one is unloved. But you are right and anybody who would read your post would most likely realize that by just looking around and within ourselves, Love which is also synonymous to the Supreme Being is indeed everywhere, in every cell of everything. It is easy to set a goal to be wealthy and beautiful, but your words really touched my heart. I realized that silently loving the mother of my boyfriend thru prayer is better than cultivating hatred to gain her approval in our culturally-challenged relationship.
    May you God bless you more so that you’ll continue and bless more people with love. Thank you so much!!! – Jecay, your fan from the Philippines

  16. i was happy to see u and friends on video go over to cook-feed homeless…
    Have a blessed 2013 to u and loveones !!!
    - gie of Manila Philippines

  17. Wanda Colangelo

    Ben, I admire you even more after reading this blog. Truly you have hit the nail on the head….we see more violence because we are becoming a society that makes fun of sweetness and gentleness and rewards aggressiveness and sarcasm. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:
    “Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”

    ― Kurt Vonnegut

  18. Happy New Year, Ben, to you and your family and friends. And Merry Christmas (well at least the Orthodox churches didn’t celebrate yet ;) )

  19. Thanks to u the world is still beautiful..u are a breath of fresh springflower ,cool mountain air, new mown green grass..all delightful and beautiful..simply divine..

    • Gie, your words are excessively generous…I don’t deserve them. But thank you from the bottom of my heart nonetheless! Happy new year!

      • but Oh you do deserved them…this world needs more people like u…charming, fun ! , Lover of mother Nature, loving to grandmas’ , Amazingly genius over food ! You my friend is the apple of every eye- well…99% if not all…

  20. My dear Ben-”Salamat” – means Thank you.. i always remember u and ur love in prayers..