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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Our Christmas Gift in one word: Abnegation. Dec 25 2018

LATE ADDITION, right up-front. This arrived today from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's office. Who says cops don't have a sense of humor? Enjoy!

 "It has become an annual tradition, on Christmas Eve, the Sheriff's Communication Center (SCC) puts out a county-wide radio broadcast that helps lighten up the evening and the fact we are all working and away from our family and friends. The broadcast describes a possible burglary suspect you may be familiar with. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. 🎅 (the video is taken from the Norad Santa Tracker and not LASD)."

NewEdited 10h ago · Posted Dec 25, 2018 


Now, for our own feature, "Abnegation..."

It's the perfect word to consider for Christmas. It's a word that's appeared in "The Atlantic" this year. Its first known use was in the 14th century. Yet it seems cryptic to modern sensibilities.

Prof. Kenneth C. Davis, in discussing the history of Christmas, points out that the Puritans banned all observances of it for about 20 years. That was partly because there is no biblical basis for declaring the birth of Jesus in December, and partly due to the celebration being at odds with abnegation.

When the web-based "A.Word.A.Day" recently featured abnegation, a reader in France offered a most valuable sense of what it is:

"Abnegation is a common word in French. It is used in the phrase 'elle/il a fait preuve d’une grande abnégation' 'il/elle a montré beaucoup d’abnégation.' It means that one has put the common interest before one’s own and has been working/devoting oneself for the common good of a small or bigger group. It usually implies hard work, sometimes taking risks, and especially putting one’s own basic needs aside (sleep, food, security) it’s a phrase still in use and will probably remain so, as long as the notion of putting the common interest before one’s own will, I guess..."
-- Dominique Mellinger, Gorze, France

So, that's a functional definition of how it is integrated into a society's values. Though we note Dominique's sense that the afterthought "I guess" was somehow required.

Now you're saying, "How about a simple, direct definition?" Yes, quite right.

"The definition of abnegation is the act of self-sacrificing by giving up your own interests."

Okay, that's pretty simple. But... as we've already seen, it's actually more complicated. That's because it gives us the opportunity to consider things beyond the short-attention-span / perceived need for everything to be quick-and-cursory. And that (gasp) defies the infestation of superficiality of our time.

As we said, that makes it the perfect subject for Christmas.

"The noun abnegation definitely has the sense of self-denial and self-sacrifice. So you wouldn't use abnegation to refer to the fact that you are giving up candy in order to eat more fruit."

"Did You Know? Abnegation plays an important part in the teachings of all the major religions. The founder of Buddhism was a prince who gave up all his worldly goods when he discovered the world of poverty that lay outside the palace gates, and abnegation has been a Buddhism practice ever since."

Contemporary examples of self-abnegation:

   "Breaking the link between fossil fuel and our energy-fueled lifestyle requires a certain amount of self-abnegation."

"The first film's main aim was to set up this universe for its lead character, Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley, a remarkably likable and accessible actress), whose family belonged to the Abnegation tribe, though she chose to join Dauntless during her initiation ceremony into adulthood."

"Given that the abnegation of the ego is enjoined by almost every spiritual tradition, this becomes relevant across the spectrum of faiths." "These acted as a justification both for abnegation by government and for the informal and non-legal manner in which the Bank has purported to police bank behaviour."

"The systematic vilification of facts and expertise, the violent abnegation of diverse thought, the constant blasts of paranoia-stoking crime reports and patriotic soundbites on an inescapable news network — could this be more now?"
— Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "Fahrenheit 451 Tackles the Evils of Social Media," May 19, 2018

That's all very "now," but this has age-old roots.

"...serious Christians give up some pleasure for the 40-day period of Lent, for instance, and Muslims are forbidden to eat during daylight hours during the month of Ramadan... Hinduism has an even older tradition of abnegation."

So, if you didn't get what you wanted for Christmas...?

If someone in your orbit is acting resentful because they didn't get what they wanted for Christmas...?

Uhh, reality check time. It's time to invite a sense of abnegation into the conversation.

Did your house burn down in the recent wild fires?

Were you homeless this year?

(No, we're not late publishing a piece for Thanksgiving. Just bear with us.)

Did anyone do something, anything, nice for you anytime in the last six months?

Have you taken time -- from the rat race of trying to earn a living -- to do something to make life better for anyone else?

Those are the basic and essential examples of abnegation.

Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Tracy Koerner, who, like purt near everybody in a public safety profession, is working today, on Christmas (and most likely on all the other holidays), took time to send this message this morning:

"Christmas is about spending time with family and friends. Wishing you and yours a wonderful day filled with family, fun, love and memories. Merry Christmas!"

Someone who must work -- and deal with many of the unhappiest aspects of humanity -- taking the time to send good wishes for "fun, love and memories" to the rest of us -- anybody wishing those things when you can't enjoy them yourself? That is a little expression of abnegation.

Some professions and essential jobs have built-in abnegation that are visible when they must work while others enjoy a supposedly universal holiday. Emergency room doctors and nurses and orderlies. Paramedics and ambulance drivers. Firefighters and cops. Snow plow drivers. People who run the trains and drive the trucks so your supermarket shelves will be stocked with food next week. Farmers and dairy operators and ranchers who must milk the cows and feed the horses and tend to a hundred things that have to do with the daily needs of other living things. Even the obscure, but still present, profession of the solitary cowboys who keep the cattle safe on the remote range.

And of course all those who keep the planes flying safely and the ships crossing the seas.

And anybody who surrenders personal freedoms when they put on a uniform to protect the needs of their society.

Sometimes it goes beyond what you signed-on to do, and things transcend what you bargained for.

Division and ego have unnecessarily brought uncertainty to the homes and lives of 800,000 federal employees on this Christmas Day. Many federal workers are not only away from loved ones today, but they're at work and not getting paid because of the lunacy of a contrived "government shutdown."

Of course, if our elected officials would do their jobs and pass a budget into law by the deadline, there would be no need for fights every few weeks over "continuing resolutions" as stop-gap funding measures that sneak rabbits into hats until It's time for the next "CR" and the next potential shutdown.

We'd like to see all paychecks and funding stopped for ALL ELECTED OFFICIALS and their staffs, along with no money for their office electric bills, their access to airlines, access to credit cards, access to lobbyists and political fund-raising events, and everything else, when they fail to go to work and do THEIR job of passing a real, comprehensive budget that definitively determines how the taxpayers' money will be spent. But that's more the realm of taking responsibility for the job they wanted and campaigned to be elected to have, than it is about abnegation. Or is it?

Obsession with "winning" when the fight makes no sense enables rage to masquerade as righteous wrath that bulldozes abnegation. It's in the ditch, crumpled and being buried beneath the debris of empathy and social responsibility.

"And so this is Christmas," as John Lennon observed in a song that cited the never-ending war of his time. That was decades before the never-ending wars (plural) of our time, and the unimaginable age of the arbitrary Trumpertantrum punctuating the egocentric edicts of a Commander-in-Tweet.

And Lennon's concerns-in-song did not anticipate a government whose officials are funded by obscene amounts of corporate campaign cash that is protected by Supreme Court rulings, selectively reported by a media owned by corporacratic conglomerates, and tastemakers who instill a sense that the only worth that matters is a Wall Street valuation. All of it driven by how much data can be stolen and used to determine public opinion and create trends and fads. And a "need" to buy yet another doodad or gewgaw that comes with more built-in spyware than the last one. An uncool last one that had to lose its trendiness because it couldn't spy on you as well as the newer one.

And so this is Christmas. And we find ourselves waist deep in a big muddy of egomanical predators, influencers, tastemakers, and assorted other self-serving greedy bastards who compete to characterize anything they can control so it will appear to our brainwashed sensibilities to be appealing in whatever way is necessary to make us want to buy it.

The word of the day should be abnegation. And so this is Christmas.


That's all for this edition. Stay tuneful!


We'll be back again soon with music news and more "News of the Non-Trumpcentric Universe." (c)



Boilerplate? Where's the main pressure gauge? And the firebox?

What "boilerplate"? Who came up with that goofy term for the basic essential informational stuff...


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