December 23, 1999 Halifax Herald
Hoping for goodwill in 2000
Hoping for goodwill in 2000
The arrival of the fall equinox in late September signals the beginning of the Season of Long Shadows. As the green leaves of summer start to turn into the dazzling colours of the rainbow, and the first light autumn frosts start nipping our noses, the shadows grow longer. By the time we set down to feast and offer thanks at Thanksgiving for the bounties provided by the Great Spirit through the hands of our farmers, fishermen and so on, the winds of October are freshening, leaves are flying and the shadows stretch ever further.
Then, the hearts of children begin to quicken with thoughts of the delightful treats awaiting them on the evening of October 31. The day of ghosts and goblins arrives and costumes are seen abroad that would terrify even Frankenstein. The deepening shadows add to the scary atmosphere. Bags are filled with goodies, and an annual feast of fattening delights takes place. Parents often get in on the act and pack on a few pounds too. I know, as the father of two now grown and married girls, I've been there.
Now into November, when a day is taken to remember the brave souls who perished in war. After the ceremonies are over and the poppies laid to rest for another year, all Christendom and many non-Christians begin preparations for the most anticipated holiday of the year. These preparations help immensely to dispel the fatigue and gloom that comes with the cold grey days of late November and December.
Then on December 22, the Winter Solstice arrives and the long shadows reach their maximum. By this time, cheerful signs of the Christmas season abound. Colourful lights have been strung around houses and lawn trees too colorfully light up the night. Christmas trees in living rooms are adorned with more colourful lights and with precious decorations of every imaginable colour. Presents from relatives and friends are set under the tree, tempting the curiosity of the recipients. And, of course, children are driven to distraction awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus. Laughter rings out across the land and the vast majority relax for a few days. On the eve of the holiday traditional Church services are attended by believers. Throughout the evening, carols are sung and warm drinks with family kindles good will in the soul.
The big day finally arrives: presents are opened, toys are enjoyed and a great feast is prepared and devoured. Friends and relatives come calling and you and yours reciprocate. Fond memories are gathered and stored for revisiting.
While all this takes place, the long shadows begin a slow retreat into the far corners. Although cold, snowy months still lie ahead, one can sense that the renewal has begun. Spring and warmth, flowers and new leafs, green grass and sunshine are now in reach. It instills a sense of anticipation.
Before offering my best for the next thousand years, I want to say a few words about the last thousand. They were by any measure, the most bloody in human history. Tens of millions were killed by warfare and in the process, hundreds of civilizations were wiped out. Entire races of people were exterminated; genocide ran rampant. Most of humanity's technological advances were made because better ways were sought for people to kill one another. Greed, hate, jealousy and meanness flourished in far too many souls and caused immeasurable pain. In this regard, it was not a millennium to be proud of.
However, things were accomplished that humanity can be proud of. Horrible diseases such as polio and smallpox, responsible for killing and maiming uncountable millions, were cured. The United Nations was set up with a goal to bring peace to all mankind. The Cold War ended. Most important, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was enacted and proclaimed by the Nations of the World.
Most promising, except for a few civil wars, the millennium is ending with peace ruling over most of Mother Earth. In the case of Europe, with Catholic and Protestant Irish deciding to replace belligerence with conciliation, guns have at long last grown silent. Considering the amount of hate that has festered among Europe's different ethnic groups since time immemorial, it is an achievement of unequalled proportions.
My main wish for the next thousands years is that the rest of humanity identify what causes them to hate the First Nations Peoples of the Americas so badly, find a way to cure it, and bring the People in from the cold. Five hundred and eight years have passed since Columbus darkened the doors of the Americas. Must another five hundred go by before things change. The poverty, unemployment, lack of hope, depression, addiction to drugs and alcohol, high rate of suicide, and so on found in our communities are devastating and should be a matter of shame for the descendants of the intruders. Attitudinal changes in the white community and non-paternalistic solutions are needed to end forever the suffering. With good will and determination it can be done.
During the early years of the new millennium, may the Great Spirit see fit to help humanity develop a sense of kinship. With it in place, peace and goodwill should prevail for all. All the best to you and yours. Merry Christmas and happy New Year!
Daniel N. Paul