One of the oldest Christmas carols, going back at least to the early 1700s, has a curious comma in it. I daresay most carolers and children who have sung this holiday favorite think the lyric is God rest ye, merry gentlemen. But if you step back a moment, an obvious question arises: if the gentlemen are already merry, what need is there for God to give them rest?
Indeed, the next verse indicates the gents are in some “dismay.” The rest of the stanza reminds them of the Savior and being saved from “Satan’s power.” These are “tidings of comfort and joy.”
The actual lyric places the comma here: God rest ye merry, gentlemen. In other words, may God grant you rest and make you merry, you gentlemen who are bustling around full of anxiety over this and that, and forgetful of the true meaning of Christmas.
Anyone out there carrying around an excess of anxiety these days? Okay, you can all put your hands down now. (Reminds me of the Drew Carey joke: “Hate your job? There’s a group for that. It’s called Everybody, and we meet at the bar.”)
We all can use some merry rest! To get practical, may I make three December suggestions:
- Watch less news
None at all might be the best idea. You can catch up in January. Use the time to finally get around to that book you’ve wanted to read. Watch a holiday movie or two (yes, you can include Die Hard if you like). Mrs. B and I are listening to more classical music. We set the radio to KUSC, 91.5 FM in L.A., and leave it on in the background. So much more restful than the sniping prattle of the Fourth Estate.
- Do something for someone else
Let’s bring kindness back into fashion. Go out of your way to open a door for someone. Let that car go in front of you in the fast food line. If you walk by a cop, firefighter, paramedic or soldier, say, “Thank you.”
Donate to a charity.
“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
- Write a blessings letter
Your grandmother used to tell you, “Count your blessings.” Take some time to write them down. I know it is harder for some than others. Suffering is part of our world, and always will be. But reminding ourselves of what we can be thankful for is a healing balm. Indeed, studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed. Anybody up for that?
We’ve just been through a year like no other in our lifetime, and up ahead things look foggy still. Let’s resolve to do 2021 the pulp fiction way:
Keep Calm and Type On
We now bring the curtain down on another year at Kill Zone. Can you believe it? We’ve been here since August, 2008! A pause to catch our collective breath is called for, so tomorrow we begin our annual two-week hiatus. See you right back here on January 4.
Until then, God rest ye merry, TKZers!