A light in the dark
They say life may be possible on other planets. There is water on Mars, even on the moon, and as long as there’s water, life as we know it has a fighting chance. Or so they say. The future of humanity may lie beyond our galaxy, as intrepid colonists of other worlds, so distant the going will take generations.
Somewhere in space, there may be another planet with the perfect balance of land and water. A beautiful, pristine place, where forests stretch endless from coast to coast, and life forms so exotic we can’t even imagine them call and hoot, graze and hunt. It seems to me we would be doing this untouched Eden a major disfavour by releasing mankind to wreak havoc on it. What right do we have to populate elsewhere, when we seem incapable of caring for the world that is our own?
At present, I am sitting looking out over our lake. It is over ten degrees outside, the sun is shining and it is as warm today as it was at midsummer. Very weird. Even weirder, the other day we sat outside to eat lunch – in December. A consequence of climate change? The effect of human life, human development, human never-ending appetite for more and more and more? Whatever the case, at our latitudes December should mean frozen lakes, frost if not snow on the ground, and definitely not invite us to sit outside while munching on a hot dog.
On the upside, my hellebore thrives, the huge fig we have planted by our door (and which rarely gives us figs due to the cold climate) is setting new vibrant green shoots, all of it dotted with miniature figs. Soon enough, they say, we will be able to grow grapes outside – even olives. Well, that sounds great for us, but what does it mean further south on our planet? And anyway, what happens if the Gulf Stream up and dies due to the present lack of cold water in the Greenland area?
This is when the “life on other planets” becomes a viable discussion. For some. Me, I have no inclination to leave. This is my planet, these are my trees, my birds, my flowers, my bugs. I have no desire to colonise a new world, I want to remain here, where the sun sets in fiery gold and oranges and rises haloed in the softest of pinks and greys. This is home. Out there, it mostly looks dark and cold. “Here be dragons” as they say…
Tomorrow it is Christmas Eve. We call it JULAFTON, and originally we celebrated other things than the birth of Christ. Come to think of it, we still do. Very few of the Swedish populace will think of Jesus and his manger tomorrow, it is more about herring and ham and smorgasbords in general and opening presents (yes, we do all that on Christmas Eve. Christmas day is spent in a food-induced coma).
But maybe we should take a moment and think: of the people we love, of the planet we live on and the future of mankind in general. 2015 has not been a good year for humanity. Horrifying terror attacks, fanatic religious armies breaking every moral law – in whatever holy book you may cite – as they claim supremacy over yet another piece of the planet. Some weeks later, and they’re pushed back, and the ground they’ve trod on is thick with blood and gore. Holy warriors, it seems, take the right to extinguish the holiest gift of all: life.
Atrocities are committed in the name of God, and God, dear people, weeps. He sits in a corner and watches as we tear each other apart and wonders where His design went wrong. All that free will – intended as a divine gift – has swelled into something self-serving and dangerous.
But tomorrow is Christmas. Tomorrow is the day when, so the Bible tells us, a star was lit, a child was born. A child to bring hope. A child to promise a better tomorrow. God’s ultimate gift to mankind, His son who would live – and die – for us. Thing is, it doesn’t help if Jesus died for us – not unless we ourselves take responsibility for making this world of ours a little bit better, a little bit kinder.
And it doesn’t really matter if we believe in God or not: if we, as humans, want to gift our children and grandchildren with a better world, it is up to us to act. That refugee who has nothing but the shoes he walks in, he needs a helping hand. The child who starves in Africa must have help to survive. Little girls in Afghanistan need schools, young men in Iraq need peace. Those that walk in the darkness need the rest of us to light up their way, and all of us need a hand to hold on to, someone who cares.
As to our poor planet, it is gasping. The climate is changing, and most of us still haven’t woken up to the fact that the tipping point may have come and gone, spelling future ruin for us all.
Fortunately, there is still hope – and it starts with us. In moments of absolute despair, humans throughout the ages have shown great resilience and a capacity to rise to the challenge. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. So how about we light a candle while making a silent promise to do something – anything – to make the world a better place?
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. May millions upon millions of candles light up the night, a beacon of hope in the darkness, a promise to ourselves that we will try. We must try – for us, for our children, for all the generations that come after.
May your holidays be filled with peace. May you be granted the joy of celebrating with those you love. And why not take a moment when you consider the miracle of life – and our common responsibility to keep that fragile flame alive.