Celebrating Celebrations

    Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote “People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained.”
     Entertainment is an industry with immense economic resources and power. It is also quite adept at creating celebrations for its members, and somehow millions of us have agreed to be spectators as they display their accomplishments and success.
    In the next six weeks or so, entertainers will carry us to lavish glorifications of their own existence. From the Golden Globes to the British National Television Awards; SAG awards; Grammy Awards; and the Academy Awards: the Oscars.   
    Some people hold their own parties for the Oscars. As a group they witness the distant ceremony, and sometimes compete to predict which actors and films have been granted awards. It is a fun, social time with a clear shared focus: an amusement rather than a celebration.
    Somehow we have substituted other people's active rituals for our own. We observe and praise from the passive comfort of a living room.
Active State
    Heschel continues: “Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation” and this is the aspect of celebration from which I find myself alienated and with which I wish to connect in 2016.
    With a theme and focus of Celebration, I do not want to passively consume so-called leisure goods or pleasurable experiences.
    The availability of enjoyment through goods and services may be something worth celebrating: here in North America we have access to a diverse array of such distractions, any of which we may take for granted. Accessibility can easily lull us into a state of passivity.
    My intention for this year, however, is to identify and inhabit an active state of appreciation, and perhaps also a state of active appreciation.
    For me, the search begins outside the consumer economy, indeed it is rooted in my experience of my own life. I have written often about the benefits of locating the centre of personal identity using our breath.
    Breathing is an inexplicable miracle, and fact that my body does it for me, several times a minute, is a marvel worth attention and appreciation.
    In addition to the phenomenal functioning of my physical body, I also seek to celebrate my behaviours, which requires that I behave in ways that will merit some sort of honour.
    I am called, then, to be mindful of how I present myself and my ideas; how my actions change the world for others; how my unthinking can be hurtful.
    If I am to celebrate what I have done, I must be responsible for how I have done it, which means being present and aware and centred before embarking on any activity or enterprise.
    Celebration is much more than Party Time, however enjoyable and appropriate a party may be. “Celebration is a confrontation,” Heschel says, “Giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one's actions.”
    If I can live up to that demand, even partly, then 2016 will certainly be a year to celebrate.

     I have been supporting clients through change and growth and celebrating with them since the 1980s.
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