The Long Way Home 12.22.23

This weekend is the beginning of the aspirational season. 

Aspiration is a hope or ambition for achieving something—a wish, if you will.

Last night marked the Winter Solstice. The time we see the least amount of daylight in the 24 hours we have each day. Now, as the Sun begins its northward migration, we will see evermore light each day until it peaks in June. We aspire for more sunshine, an aspiration borne out by history, science, and our experience. Not a wish

Since mid-November, we’ve been inundated with Christmas music to prepare us for Monday's Christmas Day—a genuinely aspirational holiday celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus—peace on Earth and Goodwill to Man, and all that. 

In addition to songs like “Santa Baby” and “Jingle Bell Rock,” aspirational songs like “So This Is Christmas” by John Lennon get plenty of airtime with lyrics like this:

So this is Christmas

And what have you done?

        Another year over

        And a new one just begun

Hearing that one, a favorite of mine, always raises guilt over all the good things I didn’t do in the past year. It inspires me to try and do better in the New Year. For a little while, at least.

How about “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” Written by David Foster and Linda Thompson-Jenner? This one will force you to consider the world around us and how we should aspire to a better world:

No more lives torn apart

That wars would never start

And time would heal all hearts

And everyone would have a friend

And right would always win

And love would never end, no

This is my grown-up Christmas list

Reflecting on the position my advanced years afforded me, this song almost always brings me to tears.

To wrap up the aspirational season comes New Year’s Day and the reflections it invites. At one time or another, we all made resolutions for the coming year. From kicking the smoking habit to finding a better job, it is awfully tough to make those resolutions stick. 

Every year, I resolve to eat a more heart-healthy diet and exercise more. Stay away from alcohol and tobacco. And every year, I lose my resolve before January expires. 

Looking around, I see that my lack of continuing resolve is common among my fellow men (and women). We get inspired during this aspirational season but soon return to old habits.

Our resolutions are really just wishes.

Grandpa Gustafson, a character in the Minnesota-based movie Grumpy Old Men, played by Burgess Meredith, had the best lines about wishes. 

The scene is in a grocery store. His adult son, (Jack Lemon), said, “Pop, I wish you’d  just try the low-fat bacon.”’ 

Tossing a pack of Jimmy Dean Center Cut (full fat) bacon in the shopping cart, Grandpa Gustafson said, “Well, you can wish in one hand and crap in the other and see which gets filled first.”

This holiday season, I plan to avoid the cynicism of Grandpa Gustafson and the haunting visits of Ebenezer Scrooge. It will not be easy, but one can wish.

Thank you for reading my scribbles, and best wishes for a peaceful, inspirational, and aspirational holiday. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.