When you need to feel at peace and you step outside to look at the moon, it’s your moon. You may get to a place where you picture other people looking at it simultaneously and how that makes you feel not as lonely, but that direct line between where your vision converges and the moon is yours.

When I was in my teens, I found the Incredible String Band. Although I always credit Alan Watts for opening my eyes to Eastern philosophy, the Incredible String Band lyrics would sometimes hint at a different way of looking at things. Listening to them was, for me, a spiritual experience. When I saw them in person at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, it was like being in a church trying to pray and finding yourself in the fellowship hall instead of the chapel. They were a weird band that I had discovered. Who were all these distracting other people? A few years later I enjoyed standing by burning trash cans in Philly to keep warm as we waited all night for Bowie tickets, but in high school, my relationship with the Incredible String Band was too important and fragile to share.

If you celebrate a holiday this time of year, it’s great to enjoy it with others. But you need your own experience with it, too. For a lot of us, holiday memories began forming before we could put words to them. Their meanings are deep. Other people can enhance our experience, put if they hurt us now, it hurts our pre-verbal selves. A woman enthusiastically plans a holiday dinner for weeks. She watches it woofed down as a backdrop to the bowl game with the same eyes that were wide with her first experience of Christmas lights 40 years ago.

I have my core experience with Christmas. I have certain cookies I bake, my own shopping style, and a holiday attitude every December. Some years others have made the holidays even more special; other years I allowed my Christmas spirit to be weakened by the Grinches in my life.

Today I will rummage through the box of recipes that somehow never made it to my flash drive. I will bake cookies with 15th century Christmas music, rap at full-I don’t have to worry about offending anyone-volume, and all the music I like between those years.

I will anticipate some warm Christmas fellowship with others.

I will not expect any certain warm Christmas fellowship with others.

My only expectation is that feeling of peace when I look at Christmas lights for the 58th season.

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