Sunday, December 20, 2009

Come Christmas – and the Resolution of Conflict

I love Christmas.

As a kid, I think what I loved about Christmas was that it made God available to me. Made him come within my reach.

During the advent season, the image of a huge old man in a great flowing robe and long white beard who pulled out his trump card weapon of thunderbolts to vanquish Lucifer and his rebel legions, who threw Adam and Eve mercilessly out of the paradise, who punished the erring Israelites through ages, was replaced by a very human and vulnerable god lying on a piece of cloth spread over hay among cows and sheep. The idea of Mary and Joseph knocking from door to door to find a place to deliver none less than the son of god himself, the pictures of the baby Jesus in the Xmas cards, the little figures in the cribs at home, the bigger ones in the churches - all these humanized the almighty who, I believed, dwelt in some remote, inaccessible regions. Making crib was a regular practice in my home. It was high excitement time for us. My siblings and I used to roam in the house, in the compound to pick up items that’d form part of the little crib. It used to fill me with a sense of making a home for the baby God when he arrives

I must say, in my mid fifties, I still get a somewhat same feeling when I make a crib, when Christmas comes around. That part of me has not grown up still.

And then there were the carols. We loved them. They fired the imagination, and created a feeling of joy shot through with a sense of awe at the enormity of the god becoming man event. Rudolf the red nosed reindeer’s story convinced us that this little guy lying in the manger is a God of the underdog. These songs celebrated the triumph of love with tumultuous joy, the reconciliation of god and man and the love of god which made him come down and teach an erring civilization to turn away from its brutal ungodly, inhuman ways so as to bring peace on earth and goodwill among men. The three kings of orient with their gifts of gold, myrrh, frankincense bestowed an aura royalty and exoticism to the nativity scene.

As a kid, how I loved Christmas!


Of late, I find myself discussing certain issues which I normally avoid, with people with different views on them. I wonder why I do it, why I’ve finally decided to face these issues which I had hitherto avoided, in order to be politically correct, or to maintain an image of myself which was not exactly an honest one. Turning the question over in my mind, I now realize that there comes a time in the life of every human being when certain things have to be sorted out and not dodged each time they surface.

Can a virgin become pregnant and bear a child, as prophesied in the Old Testament, and stated in the Gospels?

My mind says, well, why not? If, today, man , with the aid of medical technology, can impregnate a virgin without male physical intervention, why should it not be possible for that extra terrestrial creator of the galaxies who has been micro and macro managing his creations for billions of years?

Do prayers and rituals make sense?

Well. Who are we to say no? Prayers and rituals are our medium to communicate with that celestial force whose existence man has never been able to deny, or eliminate from his consciousness, despite the rationalists’ efforts and the scientific debates. Isn’t that reason enough to prove the existence of a controlling force? And we need to communicate with that force. And we do it through prayers and rituals and religious practices. I once had an argument with a scientist who ridiculed me for resorting to structured prayers.

“The very idea of god bewilders me” he said. “Imagine the mind blowing nature of his creation. How can your puny novenas mean anything to him?”
“How then do you pray?” I ventured.
“I think of Him, the enormity of his performance, and then I can’t pray. I feel inadequate.”

Well then, I’m better off, I thought to myself, but I didn’t respond to him then. But today, I’d be more vocal. A force which is able to create on such a massive scale paying attention to trillions and trillions of minute details, isn’t he capable of deciphering the puny jumble of sounds emanating from none other than his own creatures?

To my scientist friend I can now give this answer. Any form of communication raised to the almighty will not go wasted. We humans need to raise our thoughts to the eternal regions. My way or style may not make sense to my neighbor but it’ll make sense to that power above which gave us that capacity to raise our voice to him. If my way of communicating to god gives me the satisfaction of having communicated (it comes in the form of a peace: “I give you peace, my peace I give you”), that’s enough.

Who is anyone to say that the arduous pilgrimage to Sabarimala, or the tulabharam at Guruvayur, or the novenas to our lady or the way of the cross or the haj are exercises in futility? That’s our way of reaching out. The human way of communicating to that unknown God whose presence continues to be experienced in the human heart after millions of years of life on this planet.

And so, I am not apologetic about celebrating the birth of God this Christmas. The conflict has been resolved. The almighty can choose his ways of reaching out to us. How foolish of us humans to rationalize his ways applying our inadequate intellectual yardsticks! Aren’t there truths that lie beyond our rational faculties? Is the mighty creator so limited that he can be contained in our cerebral space?

Enough that I raise my voice. The great and mighty creator of this vast cosmos would sort out my jumbled sounds in his way, in his time.


  1. This post is wonderful for the way it portrays x'mas. Its exquisite the way you have described how it makes you feel. I wish I could write like that about how I feel about things.
    Hmm... Moving on, I dont know. Its easy to disregard the arguments of atheists, rationalists and the like by saying that our intellectual yard stick is merely not long enough to understand the working of this so-called higher power! Well, rationalists are called so, coz we need a rationale for things. We cant admit the fact that 99% of the world's population believe in the existence of God! Just coz of the number of people is enormous doesnt make it, necessarily true. I ll conclude with one of my fav. questions to theists!
    "IF a God exists, WHY is he letting so much injustice prevail in this world?? WHY are so many INNOCENT people being dealt an unjust life??"

  2. Nice post Amma. In fact some of the things mentioned in the second part of the post actually inspired me to break my blogging hiatus.

  3. @prathik
    aren't we not trying to judge with our ethical criterion and understand with our circumcsribed brain something which lie outside that? human have to travel beyond his intellectual, cognitive and rational faculties to grasp certain grey areas of much of the vast ocean can a small hole in the beach hold?

    a man who realised this awesome fact is Buddha. it took years of intense meditation, yogic discipling of the 'weak flesh' for his 'willing spirit' to break free from the trappings of the average condtioned thinking of ordinary mortals.

    i think the first step towards resolving the God issue is the acceptance of the truth that the human mind has its might take thousands of years to bring the God conceptwhich we sense instinctively, within the rational framework.

    @ mathew
    good to know i continue to inspire you:-)

  4. I still dont agree.. but let's agree to disagree and leave it at that!

  5. @ prathik
    yes. these are issues that cant be reasoned out. live and let live is what i too believe in.

  6. Madam, I read your son's post also. He writes with confidence and clarity that come with real intelligence.

  7. @ P.venugopal
    noticed that you scrupulously avoided giving your take on it. would be interesting what you think.

    i wish those who see this post will share their views. no special reason. just academic interest

  8. Madam, you are a sharp lady.
    When I started blogging I was on the lookout for people with whom I can communicate and searched who were all doing it from Trivandrum, Kerala, my profession, my interests such as JK, Osho, etc. and I put out the bait. Some responded and left, some others stayed for a time and left. Over a period of time, I realised that everyone was in his or her own orbit, including me, and it was a kind of general insecurity syndrome in display. I also found that people our age have this problem more than the young. In fact, the young ones generally are in a flight, so fresh and happy and confident. I found that I with all the burden of my ego problems could be corrupting the freshness of the young. So two things I did, through trial and error. One, do not comment on the blog of another person unless he or she shows interest in mine. Two, be very careful with the young people, because they have no problems, they are on a song. I am trying through this blog to recover the freshness I had when I was Mathew's age.

  9. Madam, I am sorry I skirted giving my take on your article once again, doing a poor job of it, however. It is because I cannot sort out my views on God. I do go to temples and stand before the idols with folded hands, but I do not pray nowadays as I used to when I was young, perhaps because of an ego that had become stronger with age.
    The other day I was sitting alone on the flat roof of my house in the night and my brother-in-law, a retired Physics professor, came up the steps and sat by my side.
    Can you identify any of the constellations, he asked me.
    Orion, I said, pointing towards the sky.
    Do you know why the star at the shoulder of the hunter is red in colour, he asked.
    When I said no, he went on to explain how this colour variation denotes a dying star. But it will take millions and millions of years more before it finally dies. The nearest star is more than 500 crore light years away from the earth. He pointed out several other stars by name and explained how far away each one was.
    After he had gone down, I sat for for another hour or so on the roof contemplating on the sheer immensity of the whole thing, the puny little earth in the inconceivably vast expanse of the ether and the puny little me here on the roof.
    Using rational thought and logic, can we understand that which has no rationale or logic. We have only thought as a measuring instrument, but with that, can we measure the immesuarable?

  10. totally with you this. anexcellent analogy at mat's place too, coming from a scientist himself.

    reminds me of this tale about Dr.Abdul Kalam Asad asking the professor to show his brain to elieve that he indeed has brain ( on professor's question that how can one say God exists when one can not see or touch)..
    thanks you. Merry Christmas to you and yours. God bless.

    it also brought lot of memories of crib (pulkoodu kettal) making when growing up. My 2nd xmas in NA, I want to make crib at home. asked the lady in the shop for crib, she could not think of a crib with baby Jesus in it. all the cribs in there was in infant section with baby Jesus. ( I did not know at that time it is called Nativity scene).

  11. lan said...
    i love christmas and all its bells and whistles for the joy it brings to everyone around me and how it makes me feel. as for loving Jesus, just the fact that he was born in the humblest of surroundings, did his duty by helping his parents and rose to such heights through the sheer power of His message of Love is pretty good for me. i am just disappointed that being of average intelligence i am rarely able to love as selflessly as Him. it is rather difficult to pluck oneself away from this nice material world:-)

  12. i'm so glad u love xmas, coz so do i...i celebrate a lot of festivals though my way of celebration doesn't involve praying! ;)

    i'm sure your scientist friend had a reason 2 think the way he did...just the same way u have a reason 2 think otherwise :)


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