Even with family, with social connections, people can feel alone at times. Even if they aren’t alone they can feel they are. They may or may not feel lonely, which is a different thing from being alone, in fact people who are not alone can still feel lonely; a feeling of emptiness that is not unlike that of hunger. It feels like hunger because that is what it is.
The media, television companies especially, even more so at Christmas, focus on joy, on excitement, on being not alone, satisfying a need for something which is sublimated into a need for new, for bigger, for better and the commercialism of the modern world is only too happy to exploit it.
The collateral damage, the human casualties, we probably don’t think about for a few days at least – if we ever did. Perhaps, because they can’t avail themselves of the balm of excess, we maybe feel guilty about them: fortunate to not be them and uncomfortable about it. When you don’t even have a roof over your head, or food to eat, being made to yearn for Jimmy Choo or Gucci is at best cruel, but what might we lack and may have in common with them?
The reality for many is that the need, this yearning, is for something deeper. Alone this year and binge watching a continuous stream of (especially American) made-for Christmas movies, I’ve realised that, formulaic though they are, they touch on common themes.
They all seem to offer hope: hope of redemption, or simply hope for a kinder future. They seem to value connectedness to values we may have lost, the importance of giving not taking, turning our backs on opportunism, and especially the need for, and to find, love. Oddly, one of the most iconic (to the ‘west’) and much loved of modern Christmas stories, Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”, does not have the pursuit of love as a central theme, although the loss of the youthful love of his sweetheart because of Scrooge’s greed and ambition is an issue. Other seasonal filmic offers are similar: “It’s a Wonderful Life”, for example, focusses on the love of man, not romantic love.
Christmas is an important religious festival for practising and devout Christians. For the rest, non-practising but perhaps brought up in the context of a Christian tradition, acknowledgement of something missing in our spiritual lives is circumvented by willing acceptance of, even faith in, something miraculous or supernatural but religiously ‘safer’: fairies, angels and Father Christmas.
Faith can be defined as a belief in something, or someone, on the basis of conviction rather than empirical proof: evidence. All the world’s religions are founded on faith (though some adherents of relgions would say there is proof for their particular faith. So, whatever your faith, or none, if you are alone at Christmas, and feeling a gnawing hunger, try reaching for something less tangible, but maybe ultimately more filling, than food or material possessions.