Merry Christmas…Stoic Style


If life were a race around a track, Christmas seems to be when I get my split time.  Like in a NASCAR race, I find that Christmas is my time to check where I stand in my life.  It is when I pass the pole.  If life is a series of fence posts that I pass on my journey, then Christmas is that familiar landmark, that pink and purple mailbox that I pass that awakens me to the fact that I have made progress…at least progress toward something.

Santa making Stoic progress.

Santa making Stoic progress.

More than any other time, more than my birthday, more than New Year’s day, more than any other day, Christmas time turns me toward reflection.  All of my living loved ones either are with me, or communicate with me.  All of those I have lost, come back to me in my memories as well.  I see all of the change in everyone’s families in their Christmas cards.  I pause to see my children celebrate again, but they are all one year older.

“…nights growing colder
Children growing up, old friends growing older
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Experience slips away…
The innocence slips away”  –Neil Peart (from the song “Time Stands Still” lyricis for the rock band Rush)  See it and hear it, here.

A time for reflection.

A time for reflection. (photo:  Wong Mei Teng)

I observe myself as well.  I can remember my attitude about the Holiday throughout the years, and how it has changed.  I observe how I fit into the grand scheme of others’ lives.  It’s always a little different every year.  Former close friends are more distant, new friends are closer, relationships are rekindled from the past as well.

As Marcus Aurelius reflects in his Meditations:  “Is any man afraid of change? Why what can take place without change? What then is more pleasing or more suitable to the universal nature? And canst thou take a bath unless the wood undergoes a change? And canst thou be nourished, unless the food undergoes a change? And can anything else that is useful be accomplished without change? Dost thou not see then that for thyself also to change is just the same, and equally necessary for the universal nature?”

Christmas is a time when I slow down.  It is an excellent opportunity to dwell in the present moment, but also one to observe that time marches on, with or without us.  That’s why how I spend my time is very important if I am to be a man of virtue.