When I was a child, the first holiday of the season was Michaelmas, celebrated on Sept. 29, shortly after the autumn equinox when the days have become shorter than the nights and the natural world becomes cold and dark.
Michaelmas is the celebration of the Archangel Michael, and every year I was told the story of how he slew a fire-breathing dragon—a symbol of pure evil.
But more than a celebration of heavenly might or bygone bravery to be admired—this festival was presented to me as an allegory and encouragement for spiritual work on Earth. A refrain from one festival song went:
“When I conquer within me fear and wrath,
Michael in heaven casts the dragon forth.”
This song still speaks to me and I still sing it sometimes to find greater fortitude. It serves me as a reminder that my goal is a broader love and sincere humility.
I wanted to share this now, shortly after our very intense election season and very unusual and difficult year, because the holidays are a good time to set aside the cares of the world and renew our spirits with reflection and the warmth of family and friends.
These past several years have polarized our nation to new depths—both politically and socially and I think the antagonism between citizens has dragged America down.
But for those of us who hope for a free and just society, I think we can each play a very important role. On more than one occasion, our Founding Fathers said that virtue was the key ingredient to the success of America and continuation of liberty.
Future President John Adams wrote in a letter less than three months before the founding of the country in 1776:
“Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics. There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest, honor, power and glory, established in the minds of the people, or there can be no republican government nor any real liberty. And this public passion must be superior to all private passions. Men must be ready, they must pride themselves, and be happy to sacrifice their private pleasures, passions, and interests, nay their private friendships and dearest connections, when they stand in competition with the rights of society.”
In our present circumstances, I think our polarized mindsets are something we must sacrifice for the good of our country. By this I do not mean we change our values—simply that we give up attitudes of superiority and willingness to hate based on political ideas.
I do think this election was important for the direction of our country, but if we take the words of Adams as truth, then it becomes clear that our leader alone cannot assure or remove liberty—this is incumbent on all of us.
I have seen polarization rear its ugly head—I see it as a dragon head—in myself and in my family, ideas borne of fear and wrath, fed by pride and small-mindedness. Overcoming these thoughts is of course an ongoing process that requires constant vigilance of heart and mind. But I can say that without any ill will or feelings of superiority, I have been able to maintain some warm and wonderful relationships with people of different political persuasions and have had some rational and satisfying conversations.
On the surface, maintaining good relations may seem to be the inverse of what Adam’s asks of us—that we sacrifice private friendships for the “rights of society.” But polarization is not a right. Those who have studied communism will know that polarization is used to manipulate people, a social tool for manufacturing hatred and building support for totalitarian governance.
So I hope we can all deeply renew our spirits this holiday season, and face the next four years with greater strength and broader minds.
I’ll end with a fragment of a poem from English poet Hilary Pepler entitled “Concerning Dragons.” It tells of a child asking their nurse if they are safe from dragons in bed:
Child: When Michael’s Angel fought
The dragon, did it roar?
(Oh, Nurse please don’t shut the door)
And did it try to bite?
(Nurse, don’t turn out the light).
Nurse: Hush, thou knowest what I said,
Saints and Dragons,
All are dead.
Father (to himself):
O child, Nurse lies to thee,
For dragons thou shalt see,
And dragons thou shalt smite—
Let Nurse blow out the light.
Please God in that day,
Thou maye’st a dragon slay,
And if thou dost not faint
God shall not want a Saint.”
Do you have a family or relationship question for our advice columnist, Dear June? Send it to DearJune@EpochTimes.com or Attn: Dear June, The Epoch Times, 229 W. 28th St., Floor 7, New York, NY 10001.
June Kellum is a married mother of two and longtime Epoch Times journalist covering family, relationships, and health topics.