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                                                  THE SECULAR PATH: Cultural Rituals of Beauty_______________

It is dark. It is cold. It is harsh outside and the colors of Nature..black, white, grey and brown..are not hospitable. The sometimes death-like stillness can often be unnerving, altho on a good day or after a blanketing snowfall, the silence can be exquisitely peaceful. There can be all sorts of winter fun, but it is the darkness…the  cold and long nights… that wear us down,  as we try to remember with hope, that in time,  warmth, light and the greening will return.

The Secular Path and its Cultural Rituals of Beauty have much to offer us in the Dark Season, starting around the Solstice time and through the next few weeks of celebratory events, for it is at this precise time that we may begin to lose hope of the Sun’s return in spring, and we must make the choice to either “be Scrooge”, or to seek, find or create meaning and beauty until then!

There is a thinking about the word “Secular” that often places it on a continuum with “Sacred” on the high end, and “Secular” on the less admirable end. But as I am using it, it is the word that refers to various ethnic, historical and contemporary seasonal traditions that are expressed through gifts of the creative imagination and the arts. Its myths and practices are not just based on a particular religious or scriptural tradition, but rather draw from the experiences of the human appreciation for the spirit of the natural season, our common humanity, and the attitudes of generosity and goodwill in dark times.

If in fact there is a continuum, I would put the Commercial Path on the low end, The Sacred Path of Mystery on the high end and The Secular Path in the middle. The middle of the continuum is the proper place for the Secular Path, for its arts and creativity can be tilted either towards the Commercial Path as a tool of  Illusion and Persuasion for consumeristic ends, or incorporated towards the Path of Sacred Mystery to Inspire, especially through the arts. In the middle, it serves as a Path of  Beauty, Fun, Celebration, Surprise and Childlike Delight all by itself.

The Secular Path  during the dark season offers us refreshment,imaginative through art, music, myth, storytelling, theatre, ritual,  decorations There is a spirit of generosity, entertainment, and a touch of magic to tide us over until the harshness of the dark and cold gives way to the more lasting light of spring.

Some “goodies” of the Secular Path of the Winter Season are community tree lightings, writing Christmas cards for the yearly re-connection /update with friends and loved ones, festive decorations  indoor and out, photos with Santa, parties and gatherings of a celebratory nature, performances of plays, ballets and theatre like the yearly Nutcracker Suite, The Christmas Carol, The Christmas Pops, beloved literature like A Child’s Christmas in Wales, contemporary films like “The Polar Express” and “The Snowman”, food and toy drives for the needy, imaginative and creative art installations and non-religious but seasonal music of all kinds from the lovely Ukranian Bell Carol and medieval motets to the “Chestnuts Roasting by an Open Fire”. Something for everybody in the spirit of the interplay of dark and light, cold and warmth, isolation and community, lack and bounty. Goodwill and “Light-ness” in general.

Solstice/SOULstice and music, theater,  and the two weeks of celebration and community that follow is a rich time that can bring deeper meaning to our Lives and our journey through the ongoing cycles of the year.

For a wonderful example of Secular creativity, delight and surprise..very techno-contemporary..check these links to experience a wonderful artistic creation for this Season of Darkness. Enjoy!

“Snowflake and Bubble”   (load fully..there is music and movement!) :   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_9AYqhaw64

Random Act of Culture Flash Mob.  (This one merges the Secular and Sacred Paths.  No matter what religious tradition, this is Beauty, taking place at a  secular venue:
 Movie BBC:  “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”  by Dylan Thomas:
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrLDaAG7j_o&list=RDHv4-sgFw3Go&index=2
Virtuosic piano arrangement of “I Saw Three Ships” by Maestro Jarrod Radnich  (Secular moving towards the Path of Sacred Mysteries)
Film,  The Snowman:
From Christine, The Greening Spirit
christine_phoenix_green