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December 18, 2011

Question: Why do so many people get depressed around Christmas time?

 Joy and sorrow are never far from one another. They seem to meet particularly at Christmas. The Christmas season creates high expectations for love, affection,  celebration, and conviviality. For those who observe Christmas, December 25 also places greater demands on budgets, and the increased stress that accompanies the hospitality offered to family and friends. During a serious economic down-turn, our bank account may not be the only thing that experiences depression.

The depression experienced by many at Christmas time points to the widespread incidence of failed relationships and the disintegration of the family. Many in our society feel lonely, friendless and alienated. This estrangement  flies in the face of the commercial media slogan—true in other respects—that “we are all connected.”  Psychologists report that even those who are in stable relationships also suffer from loneliness. As the noted Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) pointed out, feeling lonely has much to do with feeling misunderstood and unaccepted. Misunderstanding, I conclude, is widespread.

We live in a civilization that is obsessed with and “enervated by a rampant and brutal materialism ”—succinctly described by Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957), the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith (1921-1957), and the interpreter of its teachings. In the secular abandonment of God, faith, religion, moral and spiritual values, something has to act as substitute to fill the emptiness, a void that cannot really be filled except by the “genuine article.” The life of faith gives us a joy that is not followed by sorrow. But when material objects stand in as the only real things in the universe, they are bound to deceive us, like all idols, in a rather large way. The binge of consumerism at Christmas is bound to be followed by a big hang-over.

We should not forget that for those who have experienced a loss or a death in the family, Christmas will be a sadder time than usual. Shut-ins and the elderly will surely appreciate a visit during the festive season. Well, so much for the negatives.  In spite of it all, much beauty still surrounds us during the holidays. May all  receive an abundant share this Christmas season!
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen December 18, 2011
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