I’m Back…

December 13th, 2006

… from the dead so to speak. I have been fully ensconced in the writing of my dissertation for the past couple of months, but a few days ago I got the required signiatures and turned it in to the university authorities. I am done. I am a doctor. Let’s hope it helps me get my phd in the door somewhere.

I’m readying myself for the flurry of Christmas activity in which I usually become involved around this time of year. Buy the presents, visit the families, go to parties, drink and eat a lot. Sometimes the pomp and circumstance gets to me, especially the present purchasing bit. I mean if this month or so is supposed to be so about family and love, why ruin it by putting a dollar value on it with the number or extravagance of presents bought.

One potential gift this year that is getting a bit of press is the video game, “Left Behind: Eternal Forces”, based on the Left Behind book series about what happens to the people of the world after “the rapture”. The rapture is what born-again Christians expect to happen when Christ returns to the earth and takes all good (i.e. Christan) people to heaven. All non-believers will be left to face the anti-Christ here on earth. In the game as a player, you fight to convert people to Christianity and therefore save their souls or kill them if they won’t join you because that means that they must be with the anti-Christ. If you happen to kill someone unnecessarily (like they were a Christian, but they got their Sony PS3 before you, so you killed them for it), the game lets you atone for your sins through prayer. You can actually replace lost points through prayer.

“Left Behind: Eternal Forces” seems like the worst idea for a Christmas gift I have ever heard of. Way to teach Christian values, guys. So, first, it promotes the idea that non-Christians should be killed. This sounds like something I’ve heard about in the news in recent years. Let me think… Oh, right, like the small-minded jihadist thinking spouted by religious zealots in the Muslim community. Or, maybe like the Borg from Star Trek; you must be assimilated. However, in this case, instead of becoming one of a hive-like community of beings, you get to go to heaven. Second, this game promotes the idea that you are not responsible for your own actions as long as you pray. Sure, by prayer alone, you suddenly, magically, will be absolved of your actions. If we had a direct line to GOD, I am certain that if you killed someone, and called HIM up to say, “Hey, GOD… I kind of made a boo-boo and killed my friend for his PS3. I’m sorry.” Then GOD would say, “Yo, Dude… no problem. I understand, totally. No harm done.”

I’m glad that there are Christian groups out there who are against the sale of this game in stores. People should stand up to remind the world that violence is not religious truth. Wars are fought in the name of religions, but the basic beliefs of those religions are not based on violence. In fact, the basic beliefs of most major religions are pretty much the same in their emphasis on love and kindness. It’s in the interpretation that things get screwed up. It’s too bad that some people can’t just get over themselves, and realize how amazing we all are in our differences.

I’m not religious, so the aspects of the holiday season that revolve around organized religion are pretty lost on me. But this time of year is special to me. It is a time that almost forces me to sit back, and think about how lucky I am to have the friends and family that I do. There aren’t many times of year that do that. My life is quite active, and taking any time to spend with loved ones is a luxury. I mentally reserve this time of year to be luxurious in the company of my friends and family. It makes me sad when the real importance of the season, the personal chance to take stock and be more aware of the things in my life and to consciously be present in my life instead of running through it, takes a back seat to commersialism and obligation. If more people were to stop chasing life and actually start living it, there would be a lot more meaningful giving going on in this world. Maybe then we could stop celebrating Christmas and start celebrating humanity. That’s something we can celebrate all year long.

So, walk more slowly and enjoy the creativity and beauty around you as you shop for presents. Chew more slowly as you eat the holiday meals. Drink moments deeply and savor the amazing people around you. If you have nothing else to give, give a smile and a hug. Being present is the best present you can give.