'Four Christmases' for this Christmas?

by Shen Shi'an, The Buddhist Channel, Dec 3, 2008

Dharma-Inspired Movie Review: www.fourchristmasesmovie.com

Singapore -- 'Four Christmases' is a comical portrayal of the paradox of family - in terms of the love-hate relationships we have with sometimes rivaling siblings, smothering parents, demanding spouses and tiresome kids.

The protagonists are a couple - who chose to be committed to not being committed, so as to free themselves from the pressures of marriage. This is because both were haunted by the possibility of walking in their divorced parents' footsteps.

Ironically, the pressure to be committed to being committed arose later. Are humans inclined towards commitment, non-commitment, betrayal or re-commitment? With worldwide divorce rates and (re)marriages on the rise, it is hard to tell! Perhaps humans are inclined towards change. As the Buddha discovered, there is no unchanging self anyway. That however, doesn't mean love is a farce, because love can change - to be more and more true!

Those who are supposed to love you the most might occasionally be the ones you hate the most. As the saying goes, 'You can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family.' But how true is that? We cannot choose our parents and siblings in the sense that we cannot change our familial connections now - unless you disown them! But how about choosing to befriend our family members? Does that not change our family to be friends?

Karmically speaking, we did somehow choose our family - through the karma we have created in our past lives. Yes, we get what we deserve. The package includes our blood parents and siblings. No more excuses for the course of your life being 'scarred' by your family. No more blaming of your parents for 'bad genes'. Birds of similar karmic feathers flock together. No genes were really passed on to you. You create, maintain and change your own tendencies.

But as mentioned, all is subject to change. Living together, all in the family interact and respond in the ways they choose. It is not just the case that parents nurture the children; the children can nurture the parents in return too - for better or worse. Since we deserve our families, why not do our best to nurture them with compassion and wisdom? This the couple struggles to do, when they were 'forced' to spend Christmas with their four 'separated' families!

The issue of whether to have kids or not was discussed too. Buddhists should reflect thus - Why do we want kids? If it's to bring joy to oneself, it's a tad selfish? If it's to bring 'joy to the world', it's okay? (Hey, it's a Christmas movie!) But what about bringing joy to the kids themselves too? How about aspiring to nurture happy future Bodhisattvas and Buddhas? In a world facing over-population and pollution, we need the next generation to be extraordinary!

Are kids bundles of joy or burden? Or are they both... in alternation? Ask Mum and Dad what kind of a bundle you were! Just as we dread growing up to 'inherit' the negative traits of our parents, we should be mindful too, not to let our kids pick up our faults. Whether we decide to marry or not, to have kids or not, we should always nurture one another's compassion and wisdom - for making the one big family of humanity a closer knitted one!

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