Christmas Card 2020

It’s early this year, I know! For those who know me, my Christmas Card usually arrives sometime in February — but this year, we’ll break with tradition, and celebrate early! 🙂
The idea of sending this out after Christmas is in part to remind us all to celebrate Gratitude, Readiness, Openness and Willingness, and all the values of Christmas the whole year through… Perhaps this reminder is as much needed now as ever. We’ve all been through a lot this past year. One begins to wonder if there is any rhyme or reason to it all. This year’s Christmas Story invites us to consider another perspective on just how much of what we experience is the randomness of time and how much of it — well, as The Course In Miracles puts it, “What could you not accept, if you but knew that everything that happens, all events, past, present and to come, are gently planned by One Whose only purpose is your good? And so, inspired by that idea, I offer the following short story for a quiet January afternoon.
Perhaps you would like to make yourself a cup of hot chocolate, or bubbling herbal tea, or some delightful warm beverage, and take a few minutes to cozy up and enjoy this little story...

The Gift from the Cabinet with the Mullion Doors

by Arnold J. Mungioli

I could tell you what set it all in motion. I was there when the Youth arrived. He had a curiosity and a kind of insistence that comes from decades and decades of asserting one’s free will, and never appreciating the true gift that free will is – or life for that matter. I had never been a fan of free will, myself – not when given to those in the physical realm, anyway. I had always maintained to the Supreme Being that life on earth was too great a gift for a Soul to comprehend, let alone handle their own choices. It would inevitably lead to pain and troubles. It was someone from the physical realm – went by the name of John Keats — who once wrote, “Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a soul?”

The place where it occurred could be compared to the executive boardroom of any prominent corporate office in your world – elegant, yet somehow nondescript. The look of tasteful nothing-in-particular… except for the billowy clouds where a floor might have been and the lack of anything resembling a ceiling, one might have easily mistaken it for a typical such place: a place in which important decisions were made. Some images, feeling holographic, of units resembling elegant office furniture dotted the sides – all very open concept shelving, and further back, maybe just one closed cabinet containing inestimable treasures. The mullion cabinet doors were kept locked, mostly to keep the contents from getting out, rather than keeping anyone from getting in…

The meeting of the annual report had gotten rather heated. One might experience everyone present as appearing to wear magnificent white flowing robes, although there was a kind of shimmer, almost a holographic quality about them. It was the morning of Christmas Eve 2019, Earth time. The meeting had been moved up a week, as the needle had moved into the red and no one was sure if Earth would make it to the 31st. And now, in the midst of all this, it was suddenly time to meet the new kid who would, quite understandably, have no idea what was going on…

Legions of Angels were present. Members of this group spend most of their time weaving about the Earth. Perhaps you have seen them? Well, of course you have seen them – they would be hard to miss. They outnumber the Souls who get to have the bodies by the zillions; there are way fewer bodies available than Souls who want them – If you only knew how lucky you were to be there at all! It is an innately deep and impassioned desire in every Soul to manifest through a physical body, to house that body and experience all the senses – it is like riding Space Mountain: the moment you get off the ride, you are so exhilarated that you want to run around and get on line to take the ride again! And usually there is a pretty long line, so you have to wait a long time. But given the opportunity, you would go again right away.

You’ve probably had not one day go by without the help of the Angels: sometimes noticeably as in the case of some triumph or healing or forgiveness like witnessing some ancient hatred become a present love; and other times nothing anyone would notice, like when you just miss that train, but have no idea of the ill fortune that would have awaited you at the end of that ride, had an angel not stepped in your way to slow you up or pulled you back. That’s the thing about angels – they are like bookwriters of a musical, or lighting designers — instrumental in ways you might tend not to notice; when they do their jobs well, you do not detect them at all. You only point to them, blame them, and want to know where they were when something goes wrong.

Angels notice you and they do report back. And today, they told of a society in crisis: people who don’t take a moment to say, “Thank You” or “Excuse Me” to others — people who spend way too little time enjoying the arts or nature or peaceful rest, and who don’t make time for one another. There are people who deride a homemade chocolate chip cookie as some sort of unacceptable vice due to its carb content — a gross misuse of free will if I have ever heard of one! An entire generation coming of age dismiss other human beings by swiping left with one finger. Even a handshake – the opportunity to touch another’s hand to let them know with enthusiasm how genuinely pleased you are to meet them — had dwindled to a limp perfunctory gesture without eye contact, and without respect. The collective daily reports of the Angels were registered on something resembling a gigantic hologram of a dial overshadowing the center of the space, and although both the Angels and the Dial were most forgiving, a short while ago the needle had moved into the red, causing this emergency meeting – technology on earth had gotten ahead of the spirituality and the picture of the Supreme Being’s great experiment of the human race was looking bleak.

As the Elder, I continued, by this point somewhat exasperated, “I understand S.B. that this pet project of Yours was something for which You had very high hopes! But as I have said repeatedly over these many centuries, this idea of free will was bound to lead them to ruin. And now, for sure and certain it has! Your greatest gift of life itself is barely acknowledged as having any value at all! And You Yourself empowered them to make that choice by entrusting them with the gift of free will, something which they are not capable of handling.”

“I do trust them. But do tell Me why you think that they do not acknowledge their lives as valuable,” came the ever thoughtful and always compassionate response. “I know they can be unappreciative sometimes and that they cannot always see being human for the great gift that it is, but… I just love them, so unendingly. Truly, I can forgive them pretty much anything!”

“Yes, but they will not forgive themselves! Nor one another,” I exclaimed! “The needle is in the red! They no longer trust the elements: earth, air, fire, water – these things, they destroy with intention. You gave them everything they need to survive and thrive. Then they printed paper and by this great gift of free will, they determined that the value of those numbered paper bills outweighed all that You gave them. And now, they don’t even use the paper, they just float numbers back and forth through electronic gadgets to determine their worth, as if to say, ‘I have more than you!’ …More what!? It’s an electronic series of digits! There isn’t even anything there!”

The sound of the bell interrupted our conversation and the Youth stood among us.

“He has arrived,” I observed, pulling myself together and taking a step back.

“Welcome!” S.B. greeted him personally and with wide open arms, as the Supreme Being does with every single one who returns. Every. Single. One.

“Welcome Home!”

“I cannot see,” the Youth said, rubbing his eyes.

“Of course, the Supreme Being replied. “When you return to us, the Light is so bright that you experience it as darkness because the dazzling brilliance blinds you, and you are just expanding from the limitations of the human body you housed. Give it a moment. We shall come into your vision again.”

Then, turning to me, the Supreme Being gently prodded, “Pray continue.”

“S.B.,” I went on, attempting to calm myself, “today is Christmas Eve. Even Christmas is no longer observed as it once was – all because You gave them this Youdamn free will and now they can choose to ignore it! I feel like I have been repeating myself for centuries!”

“You have,” S.B. wryly noted.

“The celebration has diminished,” I went on, “from one of kindness and love and a prevalent wave of giving and being together to people using it as an occasion to buy things for themselves. Children message parents their demands with links to click and purchase these things for them! There is no magic — not even the joy of a child’s surprise on Christmas Morning! It is as if each choice they make removes one more beautiful possibility from their lives! It beggars credulity really! Is not the point of their manifesting there to experience Joy?” 

“Ahhhh, yes,” S.B. remembered, “The technological advancements…They would have crossed the threshold to the 21st Century on their calendar by now – Was it so few earth years ago when we gifted them technological wisdom?”

“Yes, S.B.,” I replied, “And it has taken the whole lot of them so far off track in such a short time! They have their noses in their instruments all the time now and give no time to what is real anymore!”

“Ahh, and yet we knew that gift would come with significant growing pains attached!” the Wise Being replied.

“Okay, technology aside, then – let’s look at tinsel,” I argued. “They now seem to feel it takes too much time and trouble to even simply decorate a Christmas tree. Their ornaments are mostly resin – they neither shine nor reflect the light! They’re dull and uninspired, like little blocks of gray cement. And now, of course, they are losing interest in Christmas trees altogether because there is no magic about them — nothing sparkles, and these people are too lazy and distracted to make them sparkle! They do not seem to grasp magic and possibility as things they can choose…things they must choose! What is the point of free will if they do not choose any of the good stuff?”

“Hmmmm…That is rather severe,” the Supreme Being agreed.

As his vision began to emerge from blindness, the Youth so fresh from earth and having heard all of this, though uninvited, joined in the conversation. He argued that with all the time he spends on his phone downloading updates and installing apps, there really was no time for nonsense such as attention to holiday details anymore. If Christmas were to continue to happen at all, it needed to be more expedient.

“If!?” the Angels exclaimed, aghast.

“Do you remember where you are now?” the Supreme Being asked him, always compassionate, always calm. Considering S.B. ran what was basically the biggest business of the Universe, that being the Universe itself, it always perplexed us how, by comparison, sometimes corporate executives on earth felt their position gave them the right to mistreat others or to rush people or behave inconsiderately, purporting, “it’s just business!” In the vast scheme of things, they were all juggling pretty small stuff – nothing that would have made it worth mistreating anyone.

“Not really.” The Youth responded. His mind had not yet given way to understanding his transition and he still remembered himself as an older man living life on earth.

“You are Home,” the Supreme Being reassured him, again embracing him warmly like a mother embracing the child she had not seen in over half a century.

The Youth had regained enough of his vision now to notice himself. “How is it that am I so young?” he asked most sincerely, examining himself, “I appear like a child.”

“You are home,” I remarked somewhat abruptly. I had nowhere near the patience of the Supreme Being, and the tedium of explaining this to every Soul over and over again for thousands of years – well, I confess it was wearing on me!

“But I am so young — like a boy,” he continued. “How is it possible I look like this when I am 64 years old?”

“Not anymore!” Okay, I admit I was a bit short with him.

I took a beat and attempted to explain, “Time here is very different. It’s very like the last scene in Carousel when Billy observes his daughter Louise and, in a moment, she is 17 years old.”

“I’ve never seen Carousel,” the Youth shrugged.

There were audible gasps and groans from all of the angels and so many others who were there. The Supreme Being held us to a standard that there be kindness and compassion toward all. But so many of us just could not stand Beings who were gifted a human body and decades on earth, and never once took in a musical! Surprising how many of these there are!

“Hey, I spent much of my time on fitness,” the Youth defended himself. “I jogged!”

Well, here I simply couldn’t resist.

“Yes,” I told him, “it is true that as a Human Being jogging has increased your lifespan. But only by the amount of time that you jogged!”

“If you spent such a good length of time there,” the Supreme Being continued with the usual definingly unending compassion, “it would seem you had the opportunity to live quite a few Christmases. And yet, you tell us that Christmas needs to be more expedient. You want it to happen faster? Get it over with?”

“We’re business people,” the Youth made his case. His mind was somewhat preoccupied with how much She looked like Whoopi Goldberg. “There is money to be made and there isn’t time for nonsense,” he went on.

He sent a shiver through us all whenever he referred to the season of Kindness and Love as “nonsense!” We all know, all too well, that there is nothing more sensible than to celebrate an entire season of Joyfulness and carry it with us throughout the year.

“Ornaments, trinkets, decorating…time spent on these things makes no profit,” he complained, “rearranging your entire home just to put up decorations only to take them back down a week later. This is not the pace of progress. Christmas is merely an event to market end of year sales – it’s the days leading up to it that are useful. That’s where the money is. Once the holiday arrives, people stop spending money, so the rest is a waste of time. I was a very successful businessman – ‘cause I made smart choices.”

The Supreme Being took in not just what the Youth said in this brief encounter, but by fully embracing his entire being, She was able to absorb his entire life experience and all that he had learned in more than three score on earth. He had returned less spiritually enlightened than he had left. Combined with all the others that day – and I use the term ‘day’ here as Clarence Darrow examined it in the Scopes Monkey trials a century ago – the Supreme Being made a decision . She turned, and walked slowly toward the Grand Cabinet with the mullion doors.

It was apparent to all present that the gift of time & space – or at least the gift of reconfiguring it — was much needed now. The needle hovered in the red, continuing to progress to the end of it’s arc even as we stood there assembled, and would need to somehow be reset if Humanity on Earth were to survive. Although She had granted them the power of free will, they seemed unwilling to make the choices that could save themselves. She approached the shining cabinet and opened the mullion doors with the gilded golden mesh in front of the opaque glass windowpanes. The blazing light was stark and blinding even to us. She removed from the cabinet and handed to the Youth what appeared to be a radiant ball of bedazzling luminosity — the gift of Time reconfigured, the gift of Presence.

Having been in my position for some 750,000 years that I could count, I had seen a few monumental gifts such as this. There were always gifts – not just at Christmas, but many given each day that the Souls housed their bodies on earth. Some could see such gifts for the profound benevolence that they were; most only saw the suffering, which I can only liken to receiving a present and never unwrapping it but carrying it around unopened as some kind of burden for all time. At Christmas, the gifts were always particularly special and carefully considered – they were for all people, and the Supreme Being offered them with so much Love.

“NO!” I heard myself shout. “I have been maintaining for so many years that their free will – this Youdamn freedom of choice that You give them has been the cause of empires rising and falling, time and time again! I have always felt, as you well know, that it would be better to remove that which gets them into so much trouble and replace it with Divine Guidance…”

“Divine Guidance is theirs,” S.B. reminded me. “All they have to do is ask for it. I have sent them nothing but Angels.” There was a slight murmur of self-congratulation from the crowd of Angels present.

“…But this gift is too much!” I pleaded. “They will die!”  

Then, catching my breath, I continued my fervent prayer, “They will come to know so much pain! They will grieve! It will mutate and when they think it’s over, it will go on! And if they do not finally learn to work together, they will perish! Is that what You want, S.B.?”

The Supreme Being hears and responds to every prayer. Every. Single. One.

As She listened to my plea, the Youth stared at S.B. wondering if it was his imagination that the Supreme Being looked so much like Constance Wu, but it was not.

“I very much want them to learn to work together,” the Supreme Being replied. “They have the free will do so! And perhaps this threat to their mere physical existence will bring them together by taking them apart! If they are unable to shake hands for a while, perhaps when they shake hands again, they will do so fervently, looking deep into one another’s eyes and feeling the power of the hand they touch that writes and loves and perhaps cares for children or the elderly and they will know that they are clasping a Miracle! If they are forced to stay home, perhaps their electronically transmitted digits that they use to determine their own worth will come to mean less than the miracle of their families, their beloved’s eyes, their children’s smiles, their grandparents and great-grandparents and neighbors and friends… Perhaps they will rest, and play games, and laugh together, and make art, and delight in how silly they are!”

I laughed in spite of myself, “They do look so silly, especially when they have sex! They make those funny faces and gurgly noises!” I acknowledged.

“YES!” she encouraged joyfully, “Perhaps they will learn to not take themselves so seriously! And they will have sex and play games and delight in one another’s cooking and remember to say to one another that it is good, and remember again the power of their words and that words matter and they will love again and value speaking the truth, take less for granted and celebrate every beautiful gift of the day, every beautiful gift of every moment and they will see what is new in it and how all of it can be appreciated and perhaps they will dance in their living rooms and live in their dancing rooms and when they go back to the theater again, they will love it again and they will appreciate telling one another stories in all the many forms that are open to them to do so! And they will love their bodies and they will exercise them and nourish them and give them plenty of water! They will draw and sculpt and paint and color! How I love when they take a moment and choose a color! That in itself is enough of a reason to continue to gift them with free will!”

“But so many will die!” I exclaimed. I explained to the Youth then, as I explain to you here, Gentle Reader, “Perhaps up to this point I’ve come across to you as a bit of crusty old chap, but all Divine Beings are innately compassionate. You are a Divine Being, you know. But when a Divine Being has a Human experience, that comes with free will which means that you can choose to not be compassionate. Or not be kind. Or not be loving. Or not be giving. Or not be artistic. Or not attend musicals… Perhaps you will never choose a color you like! You see it is your divine nature to be and do all of those things and so much more. But you have the free will to choose not to be. It’s less fun, but inexplicably, humans do so often choose that for themselves.”

Some of these thoughts were communicated, and so many more ran through my head, when all at once the Supreme Being exclaimed, reading all my thoughts, “EXACTLY!”

Oh, believe me, there are no secrets up here!

She continued, “They have the free will to be whatever they want. And this gift – this rare and exotic treasure – will shift everything, and I hope will enlighten them to embrace their true nature! They will have opportunities to read, take care of their bodies, get to know their Loved Ones, exercise…”

“I was all about fitness, bro” the Youth chimed in, gleefully, and somewhat proud of himself.

“Yes!” the Supreme Being acknowledged, “But did you exercise so much out of love for your body? …to celebrate the Gift of your Body? Or was it out of dissatisfaction and in judgement of your gift? You have the free will to choose to be about it for loving your body for the Miracle that it is, or hating your body and wishing to change it without respect or regard or gratitude for that Miracle! You have free will in everything, you see. You choose!”
“CHOOSE LOVE!” all of the Angels sang out. “CHOOSE MIRACLES!”

She turned to the Youth, and looked deeply into his eyes.

“I am not asking for this,” the Youth called out to the Supreme Being, only beginning to comprehend the gravity of what she was handing to him. “I like what I had! I guess I didn’t appreciate it – any of it, I suppose – but now I want it back! I want what I had!”

“The secret,” I offered, “and maybe you will learn it this time, is not to want what you had. But to want what you have! So few of you figure that out while you’re there!”

“You are created in My image,” S.B. reassured the Youth. “I am the Creator. Therefore, you are created to create. You are a Creative Being! You are a Creator yourself! Yes, Exercise! Also Draw! And Paint! And Sculpt with clay! And Cook – Create the most superb culinary delights from the vegetables I have given you! Choose to grow them! Choose to create ways to protect clean air and water for those who come after you! Choose to be Kind! Choose to Love! Choose Christmas! Choose to decorate the biggest tree you can find with lights and shiny glass ornaments that reflect that light – and treasure them — and lots and lots of tinsel!!! Choose all that you already have and recognize that you need want for nothing! All that you could ever need is within you!”

Then She kissed the Youth. The Youth was now certain that the Supreme Being looked exactly like Arjun Rampal, the masculine Bollywood Film Star! In that beautiful kiss, the thought shot out from him almost automatically, “Oh, Shit! Am I Gay?”

“No!” I responded perhaps a bit too loudly. “For one thing that is NOT a choice! And for another, you are not that lucky!”

The Supreme Being looked at the Youth with so much compassion and love it melted the heart of anyone looking on – although in this case most of us looking on had evolved well beyond dependency upon the physical limitations of a human heart – still we were deeply moved.

She held the Light in one hand, then waved Her other hand over it. She turned and looked at me responding to my prayer – not in my time, but in Hers. “It washes off with soap and water,” she assured me.

S.B., now appeared to the Youth very much like Rebecca Luker in The Secret Garden although he could not identify her specifically, having never been to a musical but WOW, was she Beautiful — and with a voice exactly as one would expect from the Supreme Being! She placed the dazzling fireball of starlight in the Youth’s hands and somewhat hypnotized by a light he could now see, he gently reached his hands up to accept it.

“Will you bring this back there for Me?” the Supreme Being asked him, then explaining, “I place in your hands that which is most needed now: an opportunity to slow down, time to be together, a pause to reevaluate what matters, a treasure trove of moments to be created out of time, and time to appreciate, to love, to see the value of a Christmas Tree and how something as simple and accessible as the shimmer of ornaments and tinsel can offer an experience of magic – and abundant simple things, which are truly the best things in life — and an appreciation for all that is good. All that will take is a pause long enough that you can see it. I place in your hands the schooling of an Intelligence to make it a soul. Now, will you bring it there?”

The Youth nodded most sincerely, embracing his newfound purpose and now recognizing the gravity of what he was about to do. Although he did not grasp the form it would take – no one knew really. As with all gifts of the Supreme Being, there is some degree of alchemy involved. But within just a few months, we would all see the Gift emerge. As with most things that are best for us, we resist them at first. Change is always a challenge to accept, even when it is so very much for the better.

The Youth was tossed off the cloud and fell into an animal market in Wuhan, China where the gift exploded and starlight for a moment sparkled everywhere – like tinsel in the air. A bat flew up from the marketplace, followed by a white dove. The world would now be healed, but it would be a slow and painstaking process of transition heretofore unimagined, at least by anyone who was presently there. Something terrible would happen at first – there would be pain and suffering – and ultimately, it would lead to changes that would enable all to live better, more caringly, more mindfully, and more fully Present. As The Course in Miracles tells us, “The ego made the world as it perceives it, but the Holy Spirit, the re-interpreter of what the ego made, sees the world as a teaching device for bringing you home.”

The Youth would start again, loving herself for the gift of who she was and all that of which she proved capable. They would excel in the 2040 Olympics, having transitioned from Female to Male, breaking records and inspiring generations to come. Free will, combined with loving oneself and others, and gratitude for all that one is, can create Miracles. As Hafiz put it, 

“Even

After

All this time

The Sun never says to the Earth,

‘You owe me.’

Look

What happens

With a love like that,

It lights the whole sky.”

The time spent in any human life – well, it isn’t that long a stay! But now, as 2019 earth time drew to a close, and the Brobdingnagian gift that was 2020 was about to begin, the people would become people again. As a result of this extraordinary gift, they would come to treasure and value time and one another in ways they had not known in their lifetime. And so, the world was under the watchful guidance of One who loved us more than any of us could comprehend.

Oh, and in case you didn’t know this about God, She’s Black. She’s Asian. They’re Indian. They’re Beautiful. They live in you! They live in me! They have given you free will to create in Their image. They are partial to tinsel, and Christmas, and Kindness, and Love.

And Musicals.

As for the people, they now lived in what John Keats described as “a Place where the heart must feel and suffer in a thousand diverse ways!” It was what they had come for – to school their Intelligence and make it a Soul.

They embraced the lyric from the musical, PURLIE (We love musicals up here!), “The World ain’t comin’ to an end my friend, the World’s just comin’ to a start. I feel it in my heart.”

They learned to wash their hands properly.

Eventually, they lived happily ever after…

For a while.

#  #  #

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12 Comments

  1. EDIE ROBB

     /  January 18, 2021

    ARNOLD THAT WS REALLY SOMETHING LOVEY BEAUIFULD ET CETX ETC. WONDERFUL

    EDIE

    Reply
  2. Liz

     /  January 19, 2021

    Thank you Arnold! That was quite a gift. Peace and love and small miracles to you.

    Reply
  3. Mike Lawler

     /  February 6, 2021

    Thank you Arnold! You are a gift. Thanks for the encouragement to live in the present. Life is good!

    Reply
  4. Sherryl

     /  February 6, 2021

    thank you…the world is coming to a start..

    Reply
  5. Thanks for sharing your story, Arnold, and a positive perspective on the pandemic. Especially enjoyed the song, which brought back memories of seeing PURLIE years ago. Have a wonderful year!
    -John

    Reply

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