I’ve always found it interesting that the Christian faith (and much of the secular western world) has religiously adopted the pagan ritual of tree decoration. The ancient practice celebrates the spirit within those trees that thrive in Winter in conjunction with a Sun deity returning to begin warming the Land anew. The fact that early Christian missionaries permitted their targeted pagan converts to continue this tradition alongside the belief that Christ was a god made flesh sacrificed for their moral good seems quite ironic. In hindsight, this conversion technique of permitting people to continue celebrating their beliefs turned out to be a practical and effective conversion technique.
To this day come the chilly days of northern hemisphere Winter, people the world over bring inside their homes dying conifers or erect plastic facsimiles, or with environmental mindfulness decorate living trees outside to make dreary gray days a bit more colorful and cheerful. The varied glittery objects, strings of light and popcorn, not to mention model trains at their base, artfully humanize an already beautiful tree.
|"The Sun is a Star!" |
--Anaxagoras, circa 450 BCE
Similarly, we as humans decorate ourselves with ethical ideas that we import from hundreds of cultures, often unknowing of their mysterious origins. We select numerous and varied traditions from the families we grew up with, the countries we call home, the friendships we’ve cherished, the fictional novels and movies we’ve loved, and yes, even the religious doctrines we have either escaped from or continue to have faith in.
Ideally, throughout our lives we adjust our moral selves as we consider new ideas imported from our ever growing life experience. We could simply trash the ones that no longer make sense given our accumulated wisdom and knowledge. A better choice might be to hang them lower on the tree of the mind as a reference to what we used to believe, a recognition that many things are fact and many fiction, and that with integrity we as individuals and civilization at large can continue the tradition of updating our understanding of what is true, and perhaps laugh a bit at the fictions we thought were true in the childhood of our being.
In July right now, the southern hemisphere begins its Winter with Rio, in particular hosts the global soccer extravaganza that is the World Cup. The capitalist infused, sports crazed populace glitters like tinsel in the wind beneath a towering mountain with a Christ figure ornament built by humans, beneath a sky a bit too high in carbon dioxide for our liking, all wrapped within a galaxy of stars including one medium size star that laughs at our silly rituals. Perhaps we'll laugh back once Sol has fused her Hydrogen supply fully into Helium five or six billion years from now.
Perhaps. In the meantime, humankind has a chance to decorate the Cosmic Tree with much and ever more beautiful, progressive understanding!