Michael Battalio

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The 12th Annual Christmas Mass Email

Greetings and Salutations, 
        Welcome to the Twelfth Annual Christmas Mass Email.  I hope this finds each and every one of you well.

        I’ve been seeing a lot lately of the inherent discord in our society  — in politics, economics, religion, and so on.  Antagonism seems to pervade my daily interactions with people.  Perhaps I notice it because we are in an age of social media, and the opinions of everyone are so easily viewable.  (I hope that is the answer all on its own; admittedly, I haven’t been alive long enough to see if this is some sort of trend.)  Although, it certainly seems like we are becoming angrier and angrier at one another.  I’m partially to blame as well.
        I am baffled at how contentious we have become, because we are more alike than we are different.  Despite what the mass media might have you believe, our society is not us versus them.  Instead, it is us versus the universe and our own limitations.  We are so isolated in our tiny corner of space that we fail to see the things that unite us.  This week is the 50th anniversary of the famous Apollo 8 “Earthrise” photo (Google it; you’ll recognize it as soon as you see it.).  We are truly are alone against the empty void of the universe, yet we spend so much of our time disagreeing with one another instead of working together as a society towards all that it is we can achieve.  
        We will never transcend those limitations of our tiny speck in space if we can’t cooperate.  The petty squabbling about trivial things serves no one but our own egos.  I am not advocating for giving up on one’s ideals, but I am promoting tolerance and education for all points of view.  We certainly shouldn’t embrace all opposing viewpoints, but we should understand why others do.  We are all one people — neither race, nor creed, nor country separates us, for our small home unites us.  Let’s take a moment to just get along for once.  I think that’s one resolution we could all stand to adopt.

        Consider this part two:  It’s recently occurred to me how life is the accumulation of many happenstances, and if just one doesn’t occur or we miss it, we are a completely different person.  A chance invitation could introduce you to your soul mate, or a response to an email could lead to a new career.  Leaving five minutes late for work might mean you miss being in a traffic accident, or reading a new book could kindle a lifelong hobby.  Every single action you take, no matter how small, shapes your entire future.
        That isn’t a surprise is it?  After all we are who we are because of our experiences.  We can never meet the person we might have been, so we certainly can’t miss that person.  It also is not feasible to know if that fictional person has an improved existence.  A different choice could lead in such a wild direction that no amount of prescience could afford you clarity.  In essence, regrets are useless two-fold.  One, you can’t change anything anyway, and two, you can’t know whether the outcome of that hypothetical change would have made your reality any better.  
        Accept those happenstances and coincidences, for they are the flavor of life.  They make you, you.  But at the same time realize that each choice is important.  Deliberate over what you can control and embrace what you cannot.

        And there you go.  I plug along in school; I’m doing pretty okay.  Once again, congratulations to all of you who have really done something amazing this year, whether it’s finishing a degree, getting married, starting a family, finding a new passion in life or any other accomplishment.  But never be satisfied; always strive for more.  Always question, learn, grow; otherwise, what’s the point?
        Enjoy the season, appreciate the little things, and give yourself some credit for making it as far as you have.  Reply to let me know how you’re doing and what you’ve accomplished; wanting to hear from you is half the reason I send this every year.

My requisite joke:

When Beethoven passed away, he was buried in a churchyard. A couple days later, the town drunk was walking through the cemetery and heard some strange noises coming from the area where Beethoven was buried. Terrified, the drunk ran and retrieved the priest to come and listen. The priest bent close to the grave and heard some faint, unrecognizable music coming from the grave. Frightened, the priest ran and brought the town magistrate.

When the magistrate arrived, he tuned his ear to the grave, listened for a moment, and said, “Ah, yes, that’s Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, being played backwards.”

He listened a while longer, and said, “There’s the Eighth Symphony, and it’s backwards, too. Most puzzling.” So the magistrate kept listening; “There’s the Seventh... the Sixth... the Fifth...”

Suddenly the realization of what was happening dawned on the magistrate; he stood up and announced to the crowd that had gathered in the cemetery, “My fellow citizens, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s just Beethoven decomposing.”

Best wishes, happy holidays,

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