Saturday, December 10, 2016

Finding the Last Lost Generation: The Christmas Truce of WWI

To go back in time exactly one century ago, the world found itself at Christmas time, about halfway through WWI.  Because of how the cycles of history go, you can reach back to a similar era to better understand the present one.   As the cycles of generations go, once every four generations is a Lost Generation.  This is what Generation X is, this is what the soldiers of WWI were.

In the spirit of seeing history and time as cyclical and not linear, I am beginning a new project as the year comes to an end.  It is a journey of reaching back to the last Lost Generation to find synchronicity between their generation and Gen X. Beyond that, I want to see what messages, what signposts, they left for us, to help us and to give us hope, because the journey of Generation X is much like theirs.

The main event that defined the last lost generation was WWI.  An extraordinary signpost they gave us very early in that war was the Christmas Truce of 1914.  French, German, British, and other soldiers declared impromptu truces along areas between the English Channel and Switzerland.  Not everyone in the war stopped fighting that Christmas, but individual units dotting the Western Front put down their weapons as a sort of rebellion against the violence of war.  Stepping out of their trenches to exchange a smile or a handshake, to have a drink or smoke together, to sing Christmas carols, and to bury their dead.  Those who chose to participate saw a humanity in each other they could not see before.  Soldiers spoke to each other in broken forms of each other's languages, in every European accent you can think of, to make a genuine connection with the other side.  A similar spontaneous situation took place on the Eastern front, the first move coming from Austro-Hungarian commanders, and Russian soldiers reciprocated.  At Easter 1915, Orthodox troops created truces with the other side as well.

There are times when we find ourselves so lost, the only place we feel even remotely at home is in No Man's Land. Yet, this can be the place where the best of human moments exist, a place where we are the least alone.  In our current political climate,we see an enormous split, where many have dug into ideological trenches.  We can step out of these trenches, these digital veils, and open our hearts to hear the stories and struggles of those on the other side. We can choose to see the faces of those who believe differently than we do as truly human, and know that we all feel anger, fear, heartbreak, and hope in the exact same way.

In just three minutes, this powerful clip gives you a glimpse into that extraordinary day that changed history because of human kindness.  (Or search YouTube for Sainsbury's official 2014 Christmas ad).

When we can climb out of our trenches, and extend a hand, we can see the divine in others, and they can see the divine in us.  May we all have moments this season where we show kindness that we, in some way, change history.

Joyeux Noël
Fröliche Weihnachten
Vrolijk Kerstfeest
Buon Natale
счастливого Рождества
Boldog Karácsonyt

  Merry Christmas.  

(c) Chloe Koffas 2016

sources: Wikipedia,