Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Collision of Holidays: Diwali, Armistice Day, and Veterans Day

Today is an interesting juxtaposition of holidays.  Most of us realize that it's Veterans Day, and some of us know that this holiday has its roots in Armistice Day.  It's also Diwali, the Hindu holiday of light that celebrates the victory of good over evil (yes, I am oversimplifying). 

Diwali is a holiday that moves, so we won't always have this juxtaposition.  Armistice Day and Veterans Day are always November 11--the armistice that ended World War I was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

At the time, people thought they had ended the war to end all wars.  Sadly, as anyone who knows the history of the 20th century knows, that was not true.  The end of World War I planted the seeds that would blossom into World War II. World War I brought carnage on a level never before seen--but World War II would be even worse.

I like the idea of Diwali landing on this day.  I like a festival that encourages light and color and the hope that good can triumph.  Today as we celebrate our veterans, let us look for ways to also celebrate Diwali.

We can light our candles and lanterns in the hope that peace will prevail and that it will come to countries wracked by war and ruin.

If we haven't always done a good job of shepherding our talents, let's declare today to be Armistice Day.  Let's forgive ourselves for every opportunity we haven't followed.  Let's see if any of those doors are still open to us.  And if not, let's rest easy in the assurance that there will be new doors if only we stay alert for them.

Part of Diwali celebrations involve welcoming the goddess of prosperity.  While I wouldn't reject some financial prosperity, it's a good day to also think about our creative prosperity.  Too many of us work from a scarcity consciousness.  We assume that the awards, the publications, the promotions will always come for someone else.

Today, let us celebrate the successes that we have enjoyed.  Let us also dream of what we would like to see manifest in our lives.  If the goddess of creative prosperity came to our house, what would that look like?

For those of us who interact with younger generations, we might think about how to discuss these holidays with them.  It wouldn't surprise me if most people in most parts of the country do not know any Hindus; I'm a fairly ecumenical person, and I have only met one Hindu family in my life.  Can we celebrate Diwali while avoiding cultural appropriation?  We live in a nation where increasingly few citizens have military service experience--what does Veterans Day mean to them?  World War I seems like an increasingly distant time--what do we want younger generations to remember?

Here are 2 good questions for any day:  what do we want to record, so that generations to come will remember?  How shall we record it?

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