It’s Christmas. Again.

It’s Christmas again. Where has 2013 gone? Why, the way every year does – quickly, in a sea of good intentions and reorganised plans.

MJWright2011

I hope everybody has a wonderful festive  season. Whether it’s snowing or high summer. And that, somewhere along the way, we get the chance to bring a little more cheer to the lives of those who are less fortunate.

For me and She Who Must Be Obeyed, it’s a Christmas with family. I am trying not to succumb to the temptation to write. We’ll see.

Have a good one, everybody – keep safe, and here’s to a great holiday season.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013

Looking for the missing spirit of Christmas…with zombies…

We went to the local mall on Sunday. It was packed, of course, with the usual shopping zombies, their minds destroyed by the glitz and glam.

The Zombie Christmas Maul

The Zombie Christmas Maul

Whenever we visit the mall, She Who Must Be Obeyed forbids me to shuffle along behind them, matching their gait and murmuring “braaaaiiins….”

Well, I’m not forbidden, but she won’t walk hand-in hand if I do, instead she’s on the other side of the mall saying things like ‘I don’t know that weird guy.’

Being the weekend-before-the-weekend-before Christmas, there were a LOT of people shopping last Sunday, interspersed with cellphone-toting teens whose minds were miles away, and toddlers drifting aimlessly around the whole lot like the wayward satellites of some Jovian supergiant. Every so often, one of the squidlings would squeal with the exact pitch and timbre of a gym shoe being scraped across a polished floor.

Looking at the way everybody had been reduced to brainlessness by the pressure to buy, buy, buy for Christmas, I couldn’t help thinking we’ve lost something.

It’s Christmas. It’s a time for caring. A time for families. A time to think of others. A time – well, it’s Christmas Spirit, isn’t it.

What’s it become? A marketing frenzy. A shallow exercise in consumerism. A concerted effort to extract as much cash as possible from the wallets of many who cannot really afford it.

Here in New Zealand, the shops will be open right through Christmas Eve – and open again on Boxing Day when, inevitably, it will be ‘sale time’. I believe that’s true elsewhere too.

Where has the spirit of care gone? Your thoughts?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013

Coming up: Fun holiday stuff – with some history, geekery and writing stuff. Regular writing tips, science geekery, history… and more… returns in the new year. Watch this space.

Let’s make 2013 the year of kindness

I have no personal resolutions for the year. But I do have hopes. And I thought I’d share one with you. Late last year I posted about the eventual end of the Earth.  The planet is not going anywhere. But we might.

Earth. An image I made with my Celestia installation (cool, free, science package).

Earth. An image I made with my Celestia installation (cool, free, science package).

When I look across human history, at the fighting, at the injustices we do to each other in so many ways, I think the human condition carries the seeds of its own destruction.

I see it everywhere, near and far; I see it in my own life in the the petty intellectualised denials of worth in their peers, on which New Zealand’s historical academics float their egoes,  I see it in the behaviours of thugs who seem to think that knives and threats, or beating up people in their own homes, can earn respect. I see it in the way that people in one country plot the death of those in another and feel good for doing so. It is an awful indictment of the human condition.

Where is kindness?

No matter how often we insist wars are over, that we’ve learned from past mistakes, injustices keep happening. And today, with twenty first century technology, it’s worse than ever. Instant personal communication anywhere in the world is a miracle by the standards of a generation ago. What do some use it for? Bullying. Nuclear weapons cannot be un-invented. Diseases are a natural threat, and science has discovered ways of making them worse. We’re using resources like there’s no tomorrow.

One theory is that we suffer from a faulty survival mechanism. According to this idea, back in the Pleistocene, altruism helped humans survive. Kindness counted. We see this in the archaeological record, not least in stone age humans with crippling disease or injury kept alive solely by the kindness of others. But there were also advantages to bands of humans competing with each other.  ‘Us and them’ kept the bands tight, drove them to command their environment. The oppostition worked when humanity consisted of clusters of groups, widely scattered. But, the argument goes, it doesn’t work in larger societies.

Certainly humanity has an endless capacity to abstract and intellectualise the darker side of the human condition. And along the way I cannot help thinking that reason, tolerance and kindness get lost.

Some remember kindness. I am impressed with the work of Bill Gates. This man helped make the modern computing world, and now he’s helping cure some of the world’s problems.

Kindness counts, and we need to remind ourselves of that every so often. Reason allows us to see the problems , tolerance allows us to accept others – to let go of what we perceive as a threat to our own self-beliefs - and kindness is the way to deal with others. We must ask not how do others threaten us, but how can we help them?

It may sound naive, but it’s not rocket science. And wouldn’t it be great to make 2013 the year of kindness.

What do you figure?

 Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013