It’s almost always good to pause. I paused to look around me in December.
What would be suitable photos to accompany an English Christmas-New Year? Appropriate photos? And, indeed, what would be appropriate text to go with them?
Whether you want to actively participate or not, whether the English Christmas-New Year dates are significant for you or not, actively being miserable is rarely desirable. So I’ll pick images I think of as at least a little pretty. A little interesting. Something to cheer the eye even a smidgen. Something at least a little nominally/commonly festive. Something comfortingly commonplace.
It takes only a moment to run into the problems of being who we are and when we are, where we are. Whoever you are, pictures of festive berries and snow can easily look little more than tired: the same old same old.
Living where we live, with the lives we live … we’ve all seen so much now. Finding something truly fresh feels almost impossible. Comfortingly commonplace quickly degrades into banal and ignorable.
Comfortingly commonplace or banal and ignorable. Is that a fair depiction of the only choice we all have?
After all, the comfortingly commonplace has its role. Some images may be well worn, but there’s little point in picking obscure alternatives if no-one understands what they signify. We all know that a well worn pair of shoes can be the most comfortable you own.
Perhaps the real problem is making the comfortingly familiar in some fresh way pertinent.
Pertinent? What’s a pertinent image for Christmas – New Year? Whose judgement?
And if someone’s looking at my idea of seasonal pictures, what do I want to happen as a result?
Marvel at snow flakes caught on a web’s thread.
Perhaps enjoy the faux mystery of why the tractor driver swerved.
Notice and smile at wind-blown winter patterns on mud and grass.
Enjoy the new world you see outside your window on a snowy night.
Grin a little at a robin meeting every expectation, as you remember that stereotypes are there for a reason.
Genuinely relish nature, strong enough to recover from any bleak weather.
Yes, look all around you, enjoy what you see, but also take the time to appreciate how hard life is with too little food or warmth.
People will be cold this Christmas and see in the New Year feeling lonely. People will be hungry and people will be ill. There will be sadness and deaths. Accept that some of it is just the way life is sometimes – remorseless; littered with inevitabilities. But know full well that an awful lot of it could be avoided, prevented, lessened, eased, soothed …
What are suitable images for grim but just-as-true seasonal realities? Is there even just one image to remind us of these harsher truths, that wouldn’t fail by being banal?
Perhaps the right image doesn’t exist. Perhaps the harsh plight of people the world over is so familiar that we barely notice it. We can all witness suffering if we look around us. But too often the plight of others produces ‘lip service care’, sad shakes of concerned heads, and little else.
Perhaps admitting the banality of suffering is the first step forwards. We need to learn to admit that human misery, in whatever form, has ended up as ignorable as the most over-worn snow scene. Then, perhaps then we could start to do something to actually something to make it better. Perhaps that’s what real progress needs.
I know and you know that making the world a little better is something almost all of us have the power to do.
I know and you know that we do try to help sometimes. We try and help to varying degrees. But if you’re like me, then all we’re doing is helping to dress the wounds. Real progress will be when we can prevent the injury.
Whatever the importance of knowing all that, if we sadden ourselves because of the plight of others, we’ll allow whatever it is that’s wrong in the lives of others to spread to our own. That helps no-one.
Finding the right path between those two is – what? All I know for sure is that finding the right path is anything but easy.
So, what have I done as I’ve paused and pondered the season outside my window and revisited my seasonal photos?
Have I created reminders for you and I, of at least some of what’s wrong in too many lives?
Have I created a reminder, a context and a spur for action without ruining whatever good fortune you have and I have?
And have I given us a context within which we can notice and appreciate just a little of what’s right within our own lives?
Will we remember that without action, pictures can be wonderful but they’ll still just be pictures, and words that merely promise good intentions are always cheap.
Did I pick the right seasonal photos? And have these words performed their role, even if all I only started out to do was jot down some notes about winter weather? I will judge you and I will judge me on whether you and I do something. You and I can make the world better if we want to.