Brother from another mother.

Hallelujah! The culmination of the American trance dance of materialism has passed once again. The story of the arrival of the big JC, iconic emissary of a loving god, can be conveniently stored away in a manger with the wise men and the peaceful creatures of the barnyard with the odd camel or two thrown in for good measure.

Ever notice that East meets West is a theme there too?

We're all free to return to our daily lives coveting our neighbors' toys, sinning at the office, practicing mindless conflicts on the freeway and projecting evil out onto the blank screen of all "those others" who have interrupted our tidy, abundant, complicated lives with their neediness, suffering and despair.

I celebrated winter Solstice, which is my traditional observation for the season and offered prayers for peace, joy and love for all the cantankerous tribes of monkeys here on earth. Thrown in a few cranberry dishes for good measure, a bit of wild rice and sweet potatoes and skipped the egg nog, which to my taste isn't fit for consumption, even when adding rum to kill the taste.

At the end of the year my family celebrates by going to the movies. Being briefly absorbed into other lives and stories, albeit fictional, gives us fodder for contemplation and discussion of larger themes and different perspectives.

Three of the films echoed a dilemma around connecting with "others". According to most mythologies, we are all little bits of one bigger creation. So what makes connecting to the whole so difficult? The central characters found themselves adrift in alien cultures, searching for connection. (If you'd like to follow along in more detail, see "Up in the Air", "District 9" and "Avatar".)   

In the first film, the leading man sought redemption in the narcissistic chimera of adolescent sexual fantasy and returned unchanged to his work in the corporate death mines. That was my take anyway. Perhaps there was transformation in his experience of connection, but the film refused to offer that conclusion. He remained up in the air as far as I can tell.

The second film forged the metaphor of connection all the way through a rather grisly transmogrification. A spiritual awakening through the death of the body and rebirth into an alien culture, which accurately recreated the vicious dehumanization of the majority of immigrant populations around the world.

Post transformation, the leading man attempted to bridge symbolically between these worlds and wasn't particularly successful in his efforts to establish a connection. Another reflection that most immigrant populations experience a similar disconnection from their former lives.

In the last film, not to be a spoiler, the leading man found connection through integration with nature. A satisfying transformation for this celebrant of the feminine face of creation. Apparently colonization doesn't make the script for the 21st century? Makes sense given that tromping around the home world killing other cultures is an apt description of the Western charter of the 20th. Let's see, how well did that work out?  Note that the hero experienced transmogrification as well.

Is it so hard to apply our imagination to the life of the "other" that we fail to connect their struggle with our own face of alienation in the bathroom mirror each morning? Is a father's love for his son somehow less for his language or place of birth?

In an age of abundance, accessibility of creativity and genuine efforts to reach beyond our own biases and filters, why does connection to the whole still elude us?

Thinking about it, maybe the year end is a great time to consider getting up close and personal with our own connections.

Who do you call tribe? What are the common myths and metaphors that you accept as reality? And how do you make enemies of the "other"?

At the end of the twentieth century, the United States - conflicted hero or bully in the school yard depending on your politics -  had "conquered" the world and was reaping a bounty of resentment from our neighbors.

Perhaps the twenty first century will ask us to rethink our conquering ways and envision rejoining the global village in a new way? I can only hope this involves flying around on dragons.

Think about it.

After all, who is the "other" anyway?

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