A Holiday Fantasy: Your New Year's Resolution for 2016

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Editor’s note: Our Tikkun contributing writer David Sylvester offers us a contemporary and super-shortened update and transformation to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but it’s not just for Christians, and it addresses our hopes for the New Year. See what parts of his fantasy could be yours as you make your own New Year’s resolutions using our TIKKUN mantra, “Don’t be realistic — go for your highest visions of the world you really want.” And meantime, if you haven’t yet made an end-of-the-year donation to Tikkun, do it now at www.tikkun.org/donate or by mailing a check to Tikkun, 2342 Shattuck Ave #1200, Berkeley, Ca. 94704. Meanwhile, may we all have a healthy, love-filled and transformative 2016 — Rabbi Michael Lerner.
All December, the pressure had been building, and something inside was about to explode, and maybe this time I wouldn’t make it through this one last week, and I’d wind up leaving cerebral spaghetti all over the walls, and there I was, trying to keep it together in line at Starbucks, and the baristas had the spirit too. They were furiously pumping out the espressos and steaming up the hot milk, but the addicts were edgy, so the manager cranked up the mechanical music until the speakers were thundering and crackling with “MURRRRRRY MURRRYYY CHRIZZZZZZZZZMUZZZZ….,” — and it was like this electronic avalanche was crashing down on my shoulders, and I was crouching low to escape it, while sliding some dollar bills across the counter to the cashier and mouthing: “L-A-T-T-E.” She took my money and gave me the look. She got it. Holiday Trauma.
I turned from the counter and found myself waiting outside in the parking lot, jostled back and forth by invisible elbows, and just past the fences, the cars and trucks were stopped dead on Interstate 880 like a locomotive off its rails, everyone trying to head south toward four different shopping malls. I could hear the muffled wailing of the children trapped inside the cars, dying to go to the new Episode VII of Star Wars instead shopping for borrriiing things, and I sensed the moms were gritting their teeth, because after all, for Chrissake, all the work it takes to keep everyone happy, and the significant others was just sitting there, staring at the red taillights, lost in a fog, thinking about work and their administrative assistants.
I was really needing my latte,and so I tried to head back inside, but a dozen people surged around me, pushing into my arms these multi-colored boxes of the things I didn’t want or need, and my arms were sagging, and some in the crowd began to sneer at my ingratitude, and others were envious because I was getting so much, so they started ripping the boxes from my hands and tearing at the colored paper, and the door to Starbucks opened, and the loudspeakers roared forth with, “HAAAVE A HAAAAPPPPYYY HAAPPPPPY NUUUUUUUU …,” and if this is the way the old year ends, then heaven help us for the New Year, but it didn’t matter because I was falling to the pavement at the feet of the mob. Then with a scream, I woke.
I was in bed.
I was sitting upright, the blankets twisted around my waist, my hair and neck wet with sweat, the sun shining through the windows.
All the world was silent.
I rubbed my face. What a nightmare! Or was it? Was I now I falling asleep into a new dream? Maybe I’m dreaming that I’m awake.I tossed back the blankets, threw on some clothes and bounded down the stairs to find myself on the sidewalk among families with picnic baskets headed for Lake Merritt in the center of downtown. “Come with us,” they urged. “Come, spend time with us!” I fell in step with a Chinese family speaking perfect Korean with their Japanese neighbors and marveled that I could respond in fluent, although overly formal, Korean.
We were walking along International Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Oakland, now empty of cars but full of people sauntering along, enjoying the sunshine and warm air of late December. The lake came into view, a spectacular salt-water inlet of 150 acres in sight of skyscrapers and high-rise condominium towers, sparkling and alive with gulls and egrets. Along its grass banks, everyone was sharing picnic baskets and chatting happily about the afternoon concerts at the Children’s Fairyland park on the other side. The day felt so fresh and inviting that I chose to take the eastern loop, a three-mile stroll past the high-rises along Lakeshore Avenue to my right and the picnicking people and the lake to my left. They were smiling and nodding at me and offering portions of their traditional lunches from around the world: the cultures of the Laotians and Vietnamese, Iranians and Iraqis, Yemenis and Saudis, Mexicans and Guatemalans, African and European Americans.
From underneath the porticoes of the luxury apartment towers, some of the homeless who had lived among the bushes were now coming out dressed in their Sunday best, cracking jokes with the security guards who had invited them in for a shower and breakfast with the tower residents. They were carrying plastic bags and spread out to collect people’s trash. A hunched African American woman – the one on Piedmont Avenue who sat on an overturned milk crate, the one I always avoided when she asked me for change — took my hand in her bony fingers, and grinned up at me and led me toward the wonderful smell of cooking coming from the blue-and-white awnings where theIslamic Cultural Center and Temple Sinai were serving baba ghanoush, borscht, falafel and latkes,
“You have to try these latkes, honey, they are just the bomb!” my new friend told me.
“But I have no money,” I whispered to her.
“Nothing to worry about, sweetie! I already paid for it.”
“You?”
“Sure,” she said with an easy smile. “All of us from the street are treating y’all today, baby.”
She saw that I was staring at her perfectly straightened, shining teeth.
“You bad boy! You thinking I look good enough to kiss, now aren’t you!” she grinned again and struck an exaggerated movie-star pose. “Get yourself over to Kaiser for free medical care and dental work, you hear me?”
“Free medical care?”
“Honey, where you been? Don’t you read the newspapers?” she pulled back with a stern gaze, reaching for a copy of theNew York Times off the table and putting it in my hand. “Lookee ‘ere!”
Peace Breaks Out!
Emergency session of Congress;
Peace Powers Act unanimously approved

President slashes Pentagon budget;
health and education spending soars

“Wow, this is a surprise,” I gushed.
“What are you, Rip Van Winkle? We’ve been expecting this for months!”
In the Times’ left column, theApologies & Corrections section had a letter from former reporter Judith Miller apologizing for her false reports on the alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and offering to testify before the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
From Bagdad, columnist Tom Friedman had a story that the U.S. reparations payments to Iraq had gone over budget, and Iraq’s Sunni-Shiite coalition government was offering some of the surplus payments to help reconstruction in Yemen.
From Gaza City, its Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren had a report about the home rebuilding programs in the Shuja’iyyah neighborhood, the apartment towers under construction in the city’s downtown and new schools in Rafah, all funded by the Jewish National Fund. Along with this, she posted a personal reflection on the needs of the Gaza family with whom she was staying.
The sound of a television distracted me from the newspaper, and I looked up to see a 36-inch monitor televising the joint session of the Knesset and Hamas. There were some discussion about a plan for Jerusalem as the capital of the new federated republic, but an enterprising cameraman was more interested in the tête-à-tête between Binyamin Netanyahu and Khaled Mashaal who were leaning toward each other from their seats. Their whispering had been picked up by a table microphone that someone had left on by mistake.
Underneath, CSPAN was streaming captions of the conversation that clearly followed the murmuring of their voices:
“Those suicide bombings and rocket attacks were so stupid of us!” Mashaal was grumbling. “What did we get? Nothing but the West Bank wall and Gaza invasions!”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Khaled,” Netanyahu said. “What could you do, hemmed in like that? “The IDF infantry and tanks at your border, our F-16 bombers overhead and naval gunboats sealing your coastline.”
“Yes, I know, but you should hear what our young people are saying. ‘If Islam is a religion of peace,’ they say, ‘then where are our Badshah Khans, the “Frontier Gandhi” of the Pashtun Muslims who resisted British repression with nonviolence? They are even questioning Islam! Because of us!”
“You think you have problems? How are we going to explain that whole ‘mowing the grass‘ bombing campaign of your neighborhoods to future generations of Jews? We were entering the month of Elul, the month of ‘divine mercy and forgiveness’— the week after we bombed four of your apartment towers. How legitimate will Israel’s actions appear to the young Jews who take seriously the Torah’s injunction to“love the stranger?”
“You know, Bibi, we could have sorted all this out, but you never call, you never write…”
“What could I do? You encrypted your cell phone number!”
“In the name of Allah, where is your Mossad when you need it! Here’s my private number for half-brother cousins and other family … ”
Just then, they looked up and noticed the camera and sat up quickly, although it looked like Mashaal had passed Netanyahu a slip of paper under the table.
“Amazing,” I said to myself, while I finished my falafel and picked up a latke from a large man in a black bushy beard and Muslim cap. He waved away any money.
As-salamu alaykum!” I found myself saying, wondering how I knew Arabic. I kept on strolling and found at the far end of the lake, the Roman Catholic parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes attending the free Hebrew lessons at the Chabad open house next door so they could understand the Shemaprayer— “Shema, Yisrael, Adonai eloheinu, Adonai echad. – that Jesus recited in the Gospel of Mark 12: 29-31. Some even tried to sing the complicated“v’ahavta et Adonai Elohecha, b’chol l’vavcha uv’chol nafsh’cha uv’cholm’odecha.”
At the tip of the lake, fans of the newStar Wars were going crazy around the Grand Lake Theater in anticipation of the chance to donate the cost of their tickets to new Syrian refugee program headed by Donald Trump, candidate for the Peace & Freedom Party. His lobbying effort was credited for the extra funding for Syrians to settle in any country they chose or to travel free back to help rebuild Homs and Aleppo under the reconstruction programs sponsored by his non-profit, Trump International.
One young man in a Darth Vader costume was carried on the shoulders of a Luke Skywalker, booming: “Imagine! In one week, we raised $1 billion world-wide! We just had to wait until summer when thisStar Wars comes out on DVD. Now that’s the Force with us!”
“Who would think so much money could come out of nowhere like this!” I marveled to the young people near me.
“Ah, man, that’s nuthin’.” said one of theStar Wars fans. “We’re on our way to greet the new Central American families arriving in Oakland today. There’s a long waiting list to host a family. You interested?”
“I would, but my place is pretty small, I’m afraid,” I replied.
“Shoot, what’s wrong with you? No one says that anymore…”
I tried to think of something to say, but they had already disappeared. I was clearly not someone to hang with.
I kept following the paths along the lake toward Children’s Fairyland and was soon in the midst of young African American and Hispanic men with pants bagging down and bumping fists and carrying each other’s children on their shoulders for the hip – hop concert put by noted artist “Gangbanga’ No Mo’. ” Proceeds were being donated to the on by the Four Square Evangelical Gospel Church on behalf of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender marriage equality alliance.
“So many people!” I asked one man, carrying two young children in his arms. “How does everyone get here? Bus?”
“Hell no!” He was huffing under his load, and his smile showed all his gold bling. “We all wanna walk, man…. Healthier!. And besides, what’s the point of doing time for using carbon fuels? Renewables are what’s on, you know…. Solar, wind, hydro… Exxon, Chevron, BP… That’s all they’re doing these days.”
“You mean there are no more refineries, no oil drilling, not even coal mining? That was fast!”
“Where have you been? Ted Cruz has been talking up a storm ’bout the dangers of capitalism and carbon emissions putting a chokehold on our Mother Earth. He’s gotten all the evangelicals behind a new Department of Economic Cooperation and Mutual Interdependency.”
“But the sea levels are rising…”
“No, no, no, that’s ancient history,” said a young mother pushing a stroller and falling into step with us. “The Greenland ice sheets are freezing over, and Antarctica is reforming. Sea levels are back to the average of multi-millennial levels.”
“Now that’s a real miracle!”
“Oh, come now, you don’t believe in miracles, do you? It’s all a question of natural cause-and-effect. That’s what Rev. Franklin Graham is telling us.”
What new world is this? I wondered, as I left them to their concert so I could head back home under a fine and gentle rain falling from a blue and cloudless sky. “Not more rain!” our apartment manager was shouting on the sidewalk. He pulled me aside, his face happy but urgent. “The reservoirs are overflowing! Tell everyone to drink more water!”
Back home, around my dining table, my children, ex-wife and her new husband and extended families were gathering for our annual reconciliation dinner where we told our favorite divorce jokes. I was recollecting the time my ex-wife’s new husband’s ex-wife brought my daughter’s new step-sister to work so she could ask her mother’s ex-husband’s new wife’s ex-husband about employment internships. Of course, the children rolled their eyeballs and shook their heads in mock boredom at the same old stories.
As they were leaving after dinner, we all exclaimed:
“What a wonderful holiday it’s been!”
The youngest son asked his father:
“Daddy, why is this holiday different from all other holidays?”
“Today is the holiday we all were liberated from our compulsion to say “No” and gained the freedom and courage to say ‘Yes’.”
” ‘Yes’ to what, Daddy?”
“To our dreams, the things deepest in our hearts, the things trying to be born every day in our most innocent selves.”
“And what will tomorrow be like?”
“I guess that all depends us. Can we keep saying ‘Yes’ to our hearts deepest desires?”

David A. Sylvester is a writer and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area whose primary work is in classical philosophy, spirituality traditions and social justice.