Midwinter family feasting in is a right and proper thing to do, family as in a range of generations, and as extended family.  For lunch, we were two-dozen-and-two compadres – friends, colleagues and kids about this extraordinary place – feasting, pulling crackers, laughing at the silly jokes, applauding the cooks and some few brief speakers, relaxed and happy, with the end of the working year upon us and two weeks of winter holidays ahead.  Gardeners, eco-teamers, builders, administrators, cooks, domestics, not-really-secretaries, a herbalist, an artist/musician, a sparks, some youngish student-volunteers, and a handful of kids.  A third of us had been part of this place for quarter of a century, or longer.

  Having known ups and downs, highs and lows, we talked about everything and nothing, most of all of our good fortune amidst this collapsing world.  Yes, the portraits on the walls were of ancestors, but, despite their magnificent robes, they had been crooks, mostly : bankers, soldiers, mothers, one, a Lord Chief Justice, in and out of the Tower three times during the Interregnum Civil War period.  Anyone who makes a fortune will have been a crook of some sort, self-evidently.  If this seems to offend, think about it. 

  A tradition has grown since last year : after our lunch, those who wish can smoke small cigars together, sitting in front of the dining-room fire.  Two old men, one youth, one young cookie, and a marvellous middle-aged woman.  An old man found the young cookie’s head resting on his shoulder : family, just as it should be.  

  I watched a festive Christmas service from St. Peter’s Church in Maastricht, first televised 11 years ago, with an orchestra and ladies choir, sopranos, tenors, a school-kids choir in red in the organ loft, and a huge all-male choir stacked behind the altar in uniform white suits and red-ribboned medallions, audience in the pews, all packed-in and conducted by the maestro André Rieu.  The setting, and the carols we were taught as kids, beautifully produced, emoted deep devotional feeling, and something else too; I felt uncomfortably challenged.  Because, while I am certain that Jeshua was a perceptive, caring, enlightened man, an exceptionally profound teacher, and I’m a fan, I am equally certain that the stories that bookend the legend, (virgin birth, stable, star, magi, the trials, via dolorosa, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, etc), were paraphernalia attached later, (and to other fables of those days, too), to make the fledgling cult appear the more amazing to the bewildered.  Jes was likely born in 6 BCE, possibly around March-Easter time.  As bizarre as anything was the later Greek adoption of an inappropriate epithet – ‘Christos’, a word meaning ‘Messiah’, meaning earthly political warrior-hero like the brilliant Cyrus the Great – propagandized as a longed-for super-hero to combat the then Roman occupation.  The consequently misleading appellation, ‘Christianity’, later cemented by the wobbly Constantine at the chaotic Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, only compiled the confusion.  There are now tens of thousands of different forms of Christianity.  This misleading quasi-religious mythology is the foundation of our ‘way-up-the-Swanee’ Western Culture.  Gulp ! 

  It’s been a strange and difficult year for many at home and abroad.  Daily earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, landslips and floods are the least of it for those unfortunates caught-up in beyond-horrific wars.  It is said that in our so-called advanced country, 300,000 souls will be homeless this Christmas, (more than 600,000 in USA); and double those numbers, hungry.  How could we be so careless ?  And yet, national catastrophes cannot be viewed in isolation; the whole world is connected.  People and nations are seen fragmented by the various self-interests of prejudiced, grey, fear-ridden power-brokers, divorced from Life, Love, and the Universe; divorced from fundamental Agape.  

  Agape – Conscious Human Love and Fellowship – the only Real Currency for people who are true. 

  An extraordinary place.  For more than 40 years, we have sought to help the world change itself from patently wrong ways with a new school for kids; with a family farm and riverside park open to the public [1]; and with this college for adults, majoring in ‘getting honest’ with oneself before anything else, concurrent with what we describe as ‘profound learning’.  

  A healthy measure of trust has grown here through the years via straight-forwardness, friendship and laughter, mutual support, and love; just as it should be; challenging for the crazies who have their beings in the modern madness ‘beyond the trees’, largely unable to trust anyone or anything, being themselves largely untrustworthy.  Sometimes, the wicked and wobbly have found their way here, to try to take advantage, and sometimes we have suffered their insanities, wickedness, and expense [2].  

  Yes, we are a vibrant and happy bunch enjoying our togetherness, and the beauty and clean air surrounding this place.  Tomorrow, we’ll plant a ‘standard’ oak tree in the meadows.

  This mixed midwinter message reflects the times we live in, and our continuing search for The Real amongst the crazies, and craziness.  If I may borrow one of His .  .  .   ‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ [3]  

  Agape – Conscious Human Love and Fellowship – the only Real Currency for people who are true. 

  Happy Midwinter.

[1]  Severely prejudiced by corrupt members of the local council.

[2]  Running into many millions of pounds across the estate.

[3]  Gospel of John, chapter 8.

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