Meditation on Solstice Peace
You have family. You have conflict.
On December 21 many years ago, my thirteen-year-old son arrived in the kitchen as I was having my morning coffee. Rather than greeting me with, “Good morning, Dad” he went straight to the refrigerator, took out a carton of orange juice, grabbed a large glass from the cupboard and filled it to the brim.
“Wow. That’s a lot of orange juice,” I said. (I don’t know why. “Good morning, Peter,” would certainly have been a better opener.)
Standing in the middle of the kitchen floor in bare feet with the glass of orange juice in his hand and looking squarely at me Peter flew into a rage with: “You are always on my case! Why are you always on my case? Nothing I ever do is right!…” and went on in that vein for a minute or so.
During a moment of speechless surprise a smile slowly spread over my face, after which I said, “We belong to mutual confrontation society, don’t we?”
He laughed, I laughed, and then we laughed together. From that moment on I was blessed with a hassle-free relationship with my adolescent son. It was like magic.
Even if you live in a city where the lights never go out, and the solstice means nothing to you, your soul knows it’s dark. You are living through the darkest day of the year. Lighting a candle can remind you of the reality that even when things are darkest you can light a candle. Children’s songs like “This Little Light Of Mine” can remind us that we can be that light—that a smile is a candle to someone else’s soul, and words like “You matter,” can cut through all darkness.
At this time of year we see “Peace, Joy, Love” everywhere. That’s nice, but if one isn’t feeling that way (and many are not—this is actually depression time, you know) it can feel more like an accusation than a reminder of perpetual goodness.
The uniqueness of each human means that we differ with all others, and those differences are a natural cause of conflict. In fact, it is fair to say—it is in fact precisely the truth—that we are in conflict with all other humans all the time. That most of it doesn’t feel like conflict most of the time is because, 97% of humans are pretty good at interpersonal conflict 97% of the time. In case you hadn’t noticed, let me state the obvious: we are in conflict with our children all the time.
My son knows that it is his job to know stuff. Otherwise, how can he ever grow up to be a satisfactory human who can make his own decisions? On my side of the table, I am trying to treat him as if he knows what he is doing, but I also know that he doesn’t know what he is doing.
But that’s okay.
Prepare for conflict. It is his job to assert, to make decisions and to do; a parent’s job is to give him feedback on the effect of his decisions on the world around him (in addition to loving him unconditionally and letting him make his own decisions.)
Thinking back on that magic moment in the kitchen, I realize that the active ingredient in the hassle-free relationship I had with my teenage son was the notion that it was okay for us to conflict. There are usually two layers to interpersonal conflict: the conflict itself, and the recrimination layer. I had removed the recrimination layer. We now had permission to disagree, argue, and fight without either of us feeling bad that we were conflicting.
Today, the darkest day of the year and the longest night of the soul, we remind ourselves that however bad things get, they can get better—and probably will, soon. We can light a candle and encourage ourselves to let our little lights shine. We want peace for everyone—especially our family. Paradoxically, a necessary ingredient in the holiday punch of Peace, Joy and Love, is acknowledging that conflict inevitably comes to loved ones, each of whom is trying to let his own little light shine.