A Little Peace

This year, the nicest thing about Christmas was a respite from hatred.

It’s certainly a symptom of age when you start to draw comparisons to what happened last decade, or a quarter-century ago.

This would be an unusual trait in a thirty-year-old, but once you’re close to forty and the growth curve has tailed off, you inevitably give the present the benefit of past experience.

In recent memory, I don’t recall a year so filled with acrimony, so driven by hate promoters. In Europe, you’d need to read your history, go back to the first half of the XXth century—Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Tito… you’d be spoilt for choice.

Today I want to fight all that, and sing the magic of Christmas—the wonderful message that the birth of a newborn baby can unite and strengthen a family.

It’s not faith that drives me, Mr. Wibaux is not a religious man—but I stood in a small chapel on Saturday night, as many will have done throughout the world that evening, and listened to the litany and the songs.

What’s driven me to this tiny church every year is history. There are hardly more than hundred people there, grouped into families, but together they represent a village. I know very few of them, and they don’t know me, but for a brief period we are all one.

At one point we are asked to greet one another with a simple message and a handshake. Strangers exchange handshakes and hugs, and that icy separation that seems to invade our day-to-day, promoted by television, big cities, and hate-mongers, disappears for a brief moment.

Like many village chapels, the inside is poor, the images reflect the true poverty of a nation that pretends it’s rich. Nothing there has the trappings of high church, there is no stained glass, gold, or incense.

And the congregation feels at home in this place, with a priest who is one of their own—a short man, a little rotund, whose rough country boots stick out below his cassock like a pair of large, black chorizos.

Here are the carpenters, cleaning ladies, factory workers and shop attendants. Mostly Portuguese, but also Romanians and Ukrainians. In a poor nation, there’s never an immigration problem—why would people want to come?

And there’s no terrorism problem, why would anyone want to blow us up? Terror needs headlines, as a  parasite needs a host—if someone attacked our little chapel it would make one headline on CNN, somewhere between Carrie Fisher and George Michael.

An American friend made that point when he read The India Road. “It’s a great book, but no one cares about Vasco da Gama. Now, if he had been a New Yorker…”

I’ll write less that usual today, a sort of mega-tweet. It’s Christmas, you’re with your family, and this is just a stocking-filler, in true Anglo-Saxon yuletide spirit.

Love is what we need right now, and always always always humor. So for those of you who have not yet had the privilege, hit play below.

May peace be with you.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

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