stepping into the bright daylight (merry Christmas)


“We feel like we have escaped from a dark cave into the bright daylight. And here we stand not knowing where to go or what to do.”

unknown Siberian peasant after the Russian Revolution


Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

Cat Stevens


Christmas is a day of rituals or it can be a day of options and choices. I begin with this thought having spent approximately 50% of my adult Christmases alone and somewhere other than where I live. Alone, but not lonely. Part of alone, but not lonely is the ability to relinquish control of tradition and designing some time and space with options and choices. It’s a little less linear, less ritualistic, and a bit more emergent.

I would argue if you step away from the traditional rituals you end up, comfortably or uncomfortably, figuring out how to be a bit more unapologetically comfortable with yourself. Maybe a bit better at modeling conscious behavior in ourselves.

when you’re unapologetically comfortable with yourself, people really don’t know what to do with you.

That said. Being alone and not being lonely means you never really ‘disconnect.’ What I mean by that is everything is relational no matter what you do. You may glance off a ritual or two and you will always glance off other people in some form or fashion. But instead of leaning into the ritual itself you optimize/maximize the glances you do have.

Which leads me to the theme of connection and how we can better achieve it.
The reality is that the pandemic shifted much of the physical relations and configurations of our lives. The increased reliance presented a fundamental challenge to us as a social species. Casual encounters became rare, social interactions were reshaped and many social traditions and rituals were upended. And then there was social isolation. Research shows heightened reports of social isolation among young adults. The reality is social events are important aspects of life and weakened social connectivity creates a sense of life dissatisfaction. Life simply isn’t an afterthought. What I mean by that is scheduled technological connections just don’t replace unscheduled casual social connectivity and shared social experiences, life demands participation. This doesn’t mean technology cannot be better designed for social connectivity (and hopefully it will be), but social connectivity occurs best when people mingle and interact (even if it is simply thru observation). Social configurations connect, changes how we think, what we learn and how we view society and social configuration itself. It is participatory and collaborative which means it is shaping us – consciously and subconsciously.

Which leads me back to Christmas rituals and traditions.

For many of us the holidays are a reflection of the same way we have participated in holidays for years (if not centuries depending on family history). The trappings are, well, a trap – albeit it can be a comforting trap. And that’s where the alone, but not lonely, comes back in to this. By blowing up your traditional model and starting over you can get a different sense of where social connectivity occurs.

You learn that while sometimes your past traditions looked fragile and the sometimes-slavish attitude toward maintaining it that moving away from it all doesn’t create cracks to fall through, but rather cracks that permit you to step into a new light.

at any given moment, a few false moves away from falling through the cracks

A new light? Yeah. Despite the fact there appears to be a consensus that Americans are less socially connected and more individualistic, research suggests otherwise. In fact, research says:

Provides robust evidence for an increase in impersonal cooperation in American society over time. Because we did not observe a decline in cooperation over time, we did not find support for any of the hypotheses about the sociocultural underpinnings for the decline in cooperation. In fact, some of the social and economic indicators measured 10 to 5 years prior to the measure of cooperation were actually positively related to cooperation.

The reality is if you blow up your traditions you become more dependent on strangers to achieve what you want from that holiday. Philosophically, your individualism is associated with higher impersonal cooperation. Through greater relational mobility, i.e., regularly interacting with and forming relations with new people, the depth of your social connectivity increases and even if the time and space has less of your historical traditions and rituals you tend to find the ‘lily pads’ (the tree, the song, the colors, the whatevers) and thrive in a new social configuration.

The added benefit from a sociological perspective is this increases social capital and over time this helps people understand and resolve social dilemmas better (and enhances ability for cooperation). I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that technologies may enable and facilitate interactions among strangers, and this may boost cooperation among people within and between societies. All I really know is that the alchemy of technology, personal, blowing up of traditions, enhance social connectivity and the potential to transform human connections and social interactions. Social connectivity has the ability to transform individuals and communities with positive changes and growth.

The reality is human beings are social creatures and social relationships play a crucial role in our well-being and happiness. When we are connected to others, we are more likely to thrive and reach our full potential. This can have a positive impact on our mental and physical health, as well as our relationships, careers, and overall quality of life – all of which contribute to a better community and society. When people are connected and are willing to collaborate, solutions to shared challenges can be achieved.

But let me end with alone, as in the individual.

The ability to blow up holiday traditions and step into a new bright light is just a reflection of a strong self-awareness. An awareness of what is going on around you and a willingness to adapt to the situation at hand.

I like the fact it suggests a version of ‘home’ regardless of how far you may be tempted to stray.

I like the concept of true companionship found among strangers and strange environments.

I like the unapologetic faith in head, heart & humanity.

I like the growth in self, and everything I just outlined, by purposefully standing alone, without being lonely.


The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

Friedrich Nietzsche


I like the idea someone can change innumerable times, yet in each iteration, will remain fundamentally the same.

I like the idea that the personality & character doesn’t change for, basically, functional reasons.

I like the idea of maintaining an attitude of ‘the self’ and continuing to change, constantly aligning itself to changing world and what it learns.

Look. The dictionary tells us you cannot ‘put an end to the existence of something’ more than a single time. I would argue with the dictionary. Life can, and does, put an end to the existence of lots of ‘self’ things. And because this is about Christmas and holiday traditions & rituals, I would suggest lots of self things can be ended … and new bright lights to be found.

All I would say is that if you are unapologetically comfortable with yourself you are more likely to ensure the existence of what matters and put an end to the existence of that which does not matter – when it matters. People may not know what to do with you, but you will always know what you can do. And within that last thought is where social connectivity hinges. You find the Christmas carolers in Kiev’s freedom square, you find a pine fire in a Paris café, you find a small Christmas tree in the middle of the Caribbean, you find a Christmas service in a small church on Christmas eve, you find the lily pads of traditions and rituals and, well, cooperate with strangers. And in doing so you step into the bright light of what is possible and could be. Ponder.

Merry Christmas.

Written by Bruce