Musings of an Irish-American

Sometimes I think about stuff, and then I write it here…

Monthly Archives: December 2009

the greatest gift

What did you receive this holiday season? Something expensive? Something rare? Something timeless? Something of great worth?

As I sat in church at midnight on Christmas, for what would be the second of three times at church for Christmas Mass (back in the music ministry), the pastor of my parish spoke about, as expected, the meaning of Christmas. He spoke about how Jesus’ coming was God’s way of telling us that, no matter what, He loves every human being. The pastor then said that that was God’s gift to us, not just Jesus, but the love that Jesus’ coming meant. He also mentioned how we shift in our mindset about Christmas, from a wanting sense to a giving sense. We grow from young children who just see Christmas a means toward the end of receiving gifts to mature adults, who derive satisfaction from giving to others.

The biggest thing I took from that homily, though, was that love is the greatest gift of them all. As our pastor succinctly put it, it cannot be bought or sold, wrapped up or stored away (at least physically). And, really, if we think about it, isn’t this the time of year where love means the most?

I watched Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” for the I-don’t-how-many-eth time on Christmas Eve, and, in relation to what was said in the homily, I’ve realized that love is what George Bailey forgot about in the course of the film (or at least at the point in which he considered committing suicide). In the heat of the moment, when he verbalized the thought that maybe everyone would have been better off if he hadn’t been born, he forgot that he gave of himself in a loving way to each of the people’s lives he touched. As he realized how loveless everyone’s lives had become without his presence, George realized that, indeed, he led a “wonderful life”. It’s best encapsulated in what George’s guardian angel Clarence writes in his copy of Tom Sawyer for George: “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends”, and, as George’s brother toasts to him in the film’s conclusion “To my brother George, the richest man in town”. In that moment, George does become (relatively) fiscally rich, but, he realizes that, in fact, he’s rich in the greatest gift: love.

Merry Christmas and a blessed and happy New Year to you all.

Best,
Martin

merry happy

Salutations from Greenup, IL, where I am currently residing in a motel room because my brother’s commencement ceremony from Eastern Illinois University was yesterday afternoon. My academic semester came to a whirlwind end this past week, as finals week reared its ugly head and I made it through (although with less than blazing results).
I offer up the title of this post from the NBC TV series “Community”, where, in the most recent episode, the politically correct Dean of Greendale Community College proclaims the tidings of the season with “Merry Happy”, which I figured would be a good mantra for my non-Christmas celebrating readers and friends.
This past week gave me a quite a bit of time to reflect on the nature of interpersonal relationships. I was looking through some old e-mails when I found this piece of wisdom from a good friend of mine about relationships; basically a relationship is “two people helping each other become better individuals”. In previous posts, and in my own thinking, I’ve always seen a relationship as a joint venture, where the product is necessarily the sum of its parts. I’ve really only realized recently that a relationship really is more than just the joint venture, as, no matter where you end up with your counterpart, you both grow as individuals.
The difficult part is realizing that, sometimes, you have to grow apart in the course of that relationship. The term “growing apart”, in this case, has a dual meaning, as sometimes you have to grow individually away from your counterpart in a physical sense and you have to grow apart in terms of ideology and perspective. Unfortunately, sometimes that growth apart can put a strain on the relationship. That’s where the joint venture becomes a part of the equation; if you have built a strong foundation for that relationship, then that growth apart, either physically or ideologically or both, can make that relationship stronger than ever. However, if that foundation isn’t as strong as what you or your counterpart think it is, a period of growing apart can be a very painful experience.
I hope that, in this time of anticipation of Christmas, we take time to reflect on our relationships, that we reconnect in some and find new hope in others. I leave you with the lyrics from “Never Mind the Strangers” by the Irish band The Saw Doctors:
It takes two to get together
It takes time to make it last
We’ll all end up in some way
Like the drink in last night’s glass
But we’ll take this chance together
Let’s not think about the end
Never mind the strangers
‘Cause I’ll always be your friend
Until the end
Merry Happy,
MJ

My Winter Song

It’s hard to believe that this Fall semester at DePauw is almost over. It didn’t seem long ago that I was moving back into my Fraternity and ready to take on the year. I’ve watched the seasons shift from summer to fall to, now, winter. I’ve also watched my group of first-year students start to settle in and grow within the DePauw community in their own ways. Personally, I’ve seen how relationships can ebb and flow and how their dynamic can be in flux.

This time in the church liturgical year known as Advent is a time of introspection and reflection, as we wait in anticipation of Christmas (sorry to get denominational on you all here), so I figure this is a good time to start reflecting more. I definitely feel like this semester was a step back personally, as I always felt behind. I know there were times last year when I felt overwhelmed, but this year I’ve always felt like I was missing a step. It’ll be interesting to see how much an impact it has had on my academic performance.

Certainly, this year has been very noteworthy for me in many ways. I was lucky enough to be in DePauw’s first theatrical production of the year, after thinking that I wouldn’t be able to because of my night classes. I was blessed enough to be elected to a Cabinet position in my Fraternity, in which myself and four others will lead our Chapter in the coming year. To me, this was a noteworthy occurrence because I see it as my way of reinvesting myself in the Chapter that has given me so much support in the past two years, and hopefully for the years to come. In the coming semester I will be helping to lead the a cappella group I’m in by serving as the male Co-President of the group, which I’m excited for to see what kind of challenge it presents and how I can help better a group that has been very high achieving in my time at DePauw thus far.

So, where does that leave my personal life? Sure, you can talk about all the accolades and positions you want, but, at the end of the day, it’s your relationships that really matter. This evening I saw my very dear friend Tim Fox in a radio play production of It’s A Wonderful Life (the classic story retold in a 1940s radio show setting), and I was reminded of the sentiment that George Bailey learns in the show’s conclusion:  “Remember no man is a failure who has friends.” I definitely feel that some of my relationships with my friends have grown thus far this year. In some ways, I feel that some of those relationships have regressed, for various reasons.

When it comes to reflecting on my relationships, this time of year reminds me of a song by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, a song about the hope which is brought to us in this season, which I leave you with this cold December evening:

This is my winter song to you.
The storm is coming soon,
It rolls in from the sea

My voice, a beacon in the night.
My words will be your light,
To carry you to me.

Is love alive?
Is love alive?
Is love

They say that things just cannot grow
Beneath the winter snow,
Or so i have been told.

They say were buried far,
Just like a distant star
I simply cannot hold.

Is love alive?
Is love alive?
Is love alive?

This is my winter song.
December never felt so wrong,

I still believe in summer days.
The seasons always change
And life will find a way.

I’ll be your harvester of light
And send it out tonight
So we can start again.

Is love alive?
Is love alive?
Is love alive?

This is my winter song.
December never felt so wrong,

This is my winter song to you.
The storm is coming soon
It rolls in from the sea.

My love a beacon in the night.
My words will be your light
To carry you to me.

Is love alive?