With the beginning of each new year, the next 12 months are unsurprisingly hard to predict by, in all forms of life’s routine – our health, our successes and our failures, politics, and the decisions of those politics, natural disasters, love and loss. But what we do know is that yet again, another new year comes around, (much quicker than we know it), and yet we’re faced with the same uncertainty, curiosities and dilemmas for the following year.
I’m not sure about you, but in our household we hold the one small tradition of watching a rather particular Christmas film just before Christmas Eve. And don’t we all? It is very rare for the four of us to be together as a family at the same time, in the same place. With 2 of us being medical students bogged down by constant studies and examinations, my Dad’s stressful (and sometimes unhappy) working life, and my Mum spending more months of this year sat beside my hospital bed than in the family household taking care of me, it’s otherwise a small opportunity to spend time together as family, at last. Whilst not asking for much, other than a little bit of Christmas spirit, since 2004, it has been the ‘Polar Express’.
As I watched our Christmas film in our living room this cold wintry afternoon, I thought back to how many times I had wondered about the meaning of Christmas as a child and how exactly we can apply these meanings to the everyday adult world on the remaining 364 days of the year. But, quite shockingly, it wasn’t until this very afternoon, after 14 years of watching our family favourite, ‘Polar Express’, that I realised the value and definition of this film’s most famous, and far deeper, more meaningful quote: “Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see”.
For me, personally, seeing and believing applies very ironically to my ability, or inability, want and need to believe in myself that I can conquer my dreams, based on a visual disability of not being able to ‘see’. My vision to physically see these goals is one thing – something I can’t quite achieve, quite literally. But in a more metaphorical sense, surely anyone can have the vision to work towards something if they can believe in themselves and that change?
But when it comes to the most real things in the world that we cannot see, it actually brings about a far more sinister, in-depth consideration. In this context, the real things are the big stuff in society that we are far too ignorant in facing up to. The sheer statistics of homelessness in 2018 Britain is a glaringly real problem that we are failing to see, because we spend far too much time looking down at our wandering feet, or at the big red high-street sale signs. We don’t see through the nooks and crannies where the most vulnerable members of our society cradle for shelter within. We aren’t truly aware of how big an issue homelessness is so we don’t actively look for it. We don’t actively believe in it being a societal problem. Mental health – when your best friend laughs away with you and tells you that they are loving life, when in fact they are weeping deep inside over the force of a suffocating and lonely mental illness. We continue to fail in seeing the suicidal signs in our loved ones, the unhappiness our colleagues are solidified in, we fail to look up and straight through their lacklustre eyes, steel fairies dying in their tired pupils. It wasn’t until this morning that I myself discovered a close friend of mine was suffering from a recent history of anxiety and depression, purely from their anonymous cry for help on a social media page. I had no idea. I wouldn’t of believed it. Politics – why, may we ask, are politicians still failing to see the true scale of destruction their decisions are causing to our country and people? The crumbling of our beloved and precious NHS is real. It’s happening. The shift in our changing relationships with the EU is real. It’s happening. The cancerous cells within the lungs of the passenger sitting opposite you is multiplying at such an aggressive rate, yet he remains so asymptomatic. It’s still very real. And it’s happening now. But none of these things are being seen to. Being addressed. We refuse to believe in the social dilemmas we are progressively tangling ourselves up in. And we are not doing anything about them.
It is very easy to be ignorant and selfish, (with no harm intended, may I add), during the festive period. We indulge in good food, we crave the attention and company of our friends and family around us, we cry for constant cheer. And we keep the string of materialistic gifts ringing along our receiving arms, hand in hand. But until we stop, look around, and reflect on what’s really going on, we will continue to miss the real (bad) things happening in our world. In this last week alone, we failed to see the homeless gentleman, Gyula Remes, turn blue and later die, outside the doors of our bickering Parliament. We failed to decide and act on the hovering drones whose lingering left thousands stranded at Gatwick Airport, so many children’s dreams of reaching Lapland this Christmas shattered. Now where is the Christmas spirit in that? Could nobody believe the fate or concept of a flying drone above one of our UK terminals?
One thing that I have learnt from being on clinical placement as a medical student this term is that observing others and their situations is just as important as asking questions and giving answers. Sometimes, standing back, watching and waiting in silence gives us the opportunity to weigh situations up, make applicable and justifiable judgments and allow the situations, the problems, the worries – to come to you, in time. Whether that be the answer to a hard mathematical question, your patient opening up about their true feelings on their illness, or simply the dwindling iceberg floating towards your vessel after Global Warming chipped it off another shrinking glacier – yet another global issue that we are still failing to believe is a problem, until we see a ten-fold increase in flooding, and our sea temperatures rising. The list could go on…
This Christmas, let’s start truly opening our eyes up to the world around us. Let’s start believing in the gravity of our situations, our problems, but also our friends and our dreams. Take time to look over others, to stand back and watch, use our minds and our conscience. Let’s start off the New Year with using our eyes more to speak and our mouths less to natter. Be blind to the hatred but be the real world’s vision of a better start. And if you look to believe, or believe to see, you may even catch that glimpse of a red fur coat and sack behind the tree. “Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see”. Have a merry Christmas, stay safe and stay aware.