I ask lots of questions on a given day. I post some of them here–I wonder, for instance, what writing means, why we do it, what keeps us writing, etc. I’m comfortable asking these questions and knowing that, ultimately, there are no answers. At least, not definitively. Writing fiction is, in some ways, a very sloppy kind of science wherein we posit theories, but don’t test them because, well, we can’t.

Driving to Charlotte last weekend, my husband and I got into one of our Long Talk on Religion and Philosophy. While I’ll spare you some of the details, it was a fascinating conversation about the thin line between philosophies and religions, and the definitions of both. We both have lots of hesitation when it comes to any organized religion, but neither of us can negate some of the extremely powerful philosophies that religions hold. The thing is, neither of us has nor, I don’t think, wants a definitive answer. Religion is replete with contradictions and paradoxes, and I think that’s kind of the idea. And it’s okay. Recognizing that gives a kind of freedom.

But further than that is where I’m going. In this holiday season, I’ve been beset with some really big challenges, to say the least. There are things happening in my life that I simply cannot understand, but that I must accept. I must go on. I realize that the greatest contribution to the human race of any religion simply the ability to help usher human beings past the selfish, fear-mongering simians that we are, to something more. We can do acts of remarkable goodness and surprising kindness, in spite of the fact that our very DNA tells us not to. We have developed over thousands of years to put ourselves first because, in such a harsh world, it is survival of the fittest.

This season, whether the celebration is about renewal, rebirth, winter, fasting, or feasting, brings to mind the many seasons on this earth how, quite miraculously, the sun continues to shine, the moon rises, and we begin again. From darkness, there is light. From despair and cold there is hope and warmth. Those we love will leave us; we will leave them. But our imprint here on earth need not be missed. The love we take is equal to the love we make, to quote a Lennon/McCartney lyric. It goes on, you know.

As I crochet my last gifts, I think of my great-grandmother, who always crocheted a pair of fuzzy slippers for me every Christmas. I hated them, thought they were ridiculous, and my mother insisted I wear them. They used to collect in my sock drawer, and now they are all gone. But the gift wasn’t for me then: the gift was for me now. Even though Great-grandmaman Rosa is gone, I sit with her when I chain the yarn together, and remember that she thought of me, one of 90 great-grandchildren, and made something for me with her own two hands, loving me as she could.

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