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Archive for Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Holidays a unifying force

December 20, 2000

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I spent last week in England, split between Cambridge and London, and I thought that I would share a few impressions with you. I love going to England during the Christmas season because the English tend to enjoy the holiday spirit. There are always special exhibitions at the museums and though the English do not put up holiday lights as we do, they do decorate their homes in a festive manner.

Cambridge, of course, is the home of Cambridge University, and although the students had mostly gone home for the winter break, the faculty and townspeople were all still there and the town had taken on an almost magical aspect. One of my favorite places in Cambridge is the Church of St. Radegunde, a church which has been in continuous use for a thousand years. Its medieval masonry has a grandeur about it and a sense of holiness that strikes every person who enters it, regardless of his or her religious preference.

It was also great fun to walk along the Cam, the river which bisects Cambridge. While we have suffered from drought this past year, the English have been overwhelmed by rain and floods. The Cam was swollen when we walked along its banks, but I was still moved by the thought that students had been walking along this path looking at the river for almost 800 years. Here at home we tend to think something is ancient if it is a hundred years old. In England, a hundred years is merely the blink of an eye.

From Cambridge we went south to London where we spent two marvelous days and nights. Karen and I decided to indulge ourselves and went to a marvelous theatrical production of the Hobbit in the West End, London's theater district. I must admit that at least half the audience was between the ages of 12 and 15, but this didn't bother us at all. On the contrary, I think that the play made us feel as young as they. The next day we were fortunate enough to obtain tickets to see an exhibition of watercolors painted by J.M.W. Turner. I have never seen such beauty before. We were both quite overcome.

But I think that the most important part of the trip for me was not the theater or exhibits. Rather it was the realization that there are so many common bonds which join us all as human beings. Every night we watched the news. We saw stories of violence in the Middle East, of starvation and disease, of war and of poverty. But we also saw stories of great hope, of people reaching out to each other across seemingly impossible boundaries.

One day, I came across a sign in a shop window. It said: "Peace is not just for Christmas, but for the whole year." In fact, peace and understanding, kindness and charity are not just for Christmas but for the whole year. One of the things about travel is that it makes you realize that our similarities are so much greater than our differences. We are all of us human and in spite of differences we are all the same. Would it not be a better world if we could remember these simple things not just for a few weeks each December but for every week, every month, every year.

As a lawyer I understand human frailty and the need for laws to preserve order and prevent injustice. As a teacher I continue to be optimistic that we may yet reach a time when laws will be unnecessary, when each of us will behave to others as we would truly have them behave towards us, with kindness, understanding, and affection. I am reminded, once again, of a maxim one of my teachers was fond of repeating: "In Heaven, the lion will lie down with the lamb and there shall be no laws. In Hell, due process will be strictly observed."

I hope that each of you has a wonderful holiday and finds peace and happiness. I hope, as well, that we may be able to remember the holiday spirit even after the holidays are past and that we may continue to try to build a Heaven on earth and not a Hell.

Happy holidays.

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