Counter-Intuitive Christmas Advice: Be Less Sated and Satisfied, the Better to Carry Your Restlessness
“I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give…” These words were written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian and pastor, in December, 1943, from a Nazi prison, where he was incarcerated for his vocal opposition to Adolf Hitler.
Bonhoeffer would never be reunited with the fiancé to whom he was writing. The Gestapo hanged him 14 days before advancing American troops liberated Flossenbürg concentration camp, in the spring of 1945.
“Now that we have nothing to give,” his letter continued, “the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious. The emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words: ‘We are beggars; this is true.’ The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth.”
Bonhoeffer’s letters from prison were later collected into a book, “God Is In the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas.” Even to a reader not blessed with the gift of faith, his words resonate during a time of prolonged adversity. “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent,” he reflected, in a reference to the liturgical season leading up to Christmas.
It is only with the lazy imprecision of self-pity that we can draw analogies between prison cells and the homes in which many of us have once again begun to isolate ourselves. (And such a comparison is genuinely impossible for any who have ever laid eyes on the inside of an actual jail, much less a concentration camp.)
Moreover, it is a threadbare platitude to remind anyone that current troubles could be worse. But a related (and less-often invoked) truth is still worth noting: When it has been worse, others have refused to let hope slip from their grasp, and managed to accomplish this with far less reason than we now have.
Bonhoeffer counsels patience and humility: “Not everyone can wait,” he admits. “Neither the sated nor the satisfied nor those without respect can wait. The only ones who can wait are people who carry restlessness around with them.”
“And then,” he predicts, “just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light, because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment.”
“Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly?” Bonhoeffer asks. “Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger. Whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness.”
In the last letter that his persecutors allowed Bonhoeffer to send to the woman he loved (on December 19, 1944), he wrote, “these will be quiet days in our homes. But I have had the experience over and over again that the quieter it is around me, the clearer do I feel the connection to you. Therefore you must not think that I am unhappy. What is happiness and unhappiness? It depends so little on the circumstances; it depends really only on that which happens inside a person. I am grateful every day that I have you, and that makes me happy.”
Here’s wishing that during these quiet days, the connections that sustain us do not merely survive, but are strengthened and made clearer by the unaccustomed hush of a holiday that portends to be slightly less festive, and a tad more restive, than tradition would ordinarily demand.
The Broadsheet will pause publication for the holiday season, and return to your inboxes and lobbies on January 3.
Kids Play at the Battery
The New Battery Playscape is the Final Piece of the Master Plan
On December 16, as children whooped down long slippery slides and explored a treehouse, and the Knickerbocker Nighthawks band played danceable Dixieland tunes, The Battery Playscape opened at the southernmost tip of Manhattan.
The final piece of The Battery Master Plan, this new 1.5 acre playground completes more than 25 years of work by The Battery Conservancy to revitalize and rebuild this historic public park using sustainable design and ecological practices.
Under the leadership of founder and president Warrie Price, the Conservancy initiated the Playscape’s resilient design after Tropical Storm Sandy battered the Battery with a 15-foot storm surge. Designing for sea-level rise became imperative, and Battery Park—the historic southern tip of Manhattan that will always bear the brunt of rising waters—became a focal point. Designed by BKSK Architects and Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners, The Battery Playscape is built with absorbent elements that will accept floods and storm surges, and then recover. The playground design features five ecological zones—bluff, riverbed, marsh, dune, and meadow—each inspired by topography created by water shaping the land. Creative, adventurous play is encouraged.
“We immerse children into the natural wonders formed by plants, trees, sand, and ancient stone while building an understanding of accommodating climate,” Ms. Price said.
The $18.3 million project was funded by $9 million from Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a $7.65 million MTA grant, $800,000 from Mayor Bill de Blasio, $500,000 from City Council Member Margaret Chin, and $350,000 from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Visited by 15 million people each year, The Battery is one of the oldest public spaces in continuous use in New York City.
Governors Island Celebrates First Cold-Weather Season with Winter Village
Starting December 17, Governors Island will host a seasonal Winter Village, which will transform the historic Colonels Row into a pop-up destination for holiday amenities, including a 5,000-square foot skating rink, open fire pits, a dozen-plus lawn games, and Jack Frost-friendly refreshments.
The 5,000-square-foot rink will be open Fridays (noon to 5:00 pm), Saturdays, and Sundays (10:00 am to 5:00 pm) as well as on New York City public school holidays. Skating is free on Fridays, and priced at $11 on Saturdays and Sundays. (Skate rentals cost $8 at all times.) Extended hours are also available for youth, adult and nonprofit sports leagues. (Interested organizations should email: firstname.lastname@example.org) To read more…
Special Edition: A seasonal celebration
Eyes to the Sky
December 17 – 25, 2021
Suspended in starlit cosmic darkness, a stork is poised at the edge of a round, earthy nest, its chicks nestled into the top of the mound. As the New Year nears, “Nesting Under the Milky Way” elicits thoughts of the folklore of storks delivering newborns to families and the symbolism of a stork bringing in the New Year in the form of a human baby. The astrophotographer’s image poignantly spotlights life on Earth in relationship to our home in the Milky Way Galaxy.
Most of December, you and I are suspended in starlit cosmic darkness from late afternoon into morning, with little more than 9 hours of daylight. In the coming few days, the moon lights the night. This afternoon, the 17th, the nearly full moon rises in the east-northeast at 3:23pm. The Sun sets into the southwest horizon at 4:30pm both today, the 17th, and tomorrow, the 18th.
Tomorrow afternoon, Saturday the 18th, and all night, the Sun’s light is reflected to Earth by the Full Long Night Moon. Moonrise is at 4:02pm in the east-northeast – allow a delay where buildings populate the skyline. Sunday morning, the 19th, upon awakening, enjoy the sight of the great orb of the Full Moon setting in the west-northwest. It will slip under the horizon at 7:48am. Moonrise is close to an hour later everyday and sunset a minute later.
Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, arrives on Tuesday the 21st. Yes, the Sun sets a minute later everyday but sunrise continues to be later each day into January. Sunrise on the 21st, 7:17am; sunset 4:32pm.
Into next week, as dusk gathers, the sky to the south-southwest lights up with a string of planets. Brilliant Venus, low to the southwest horizon, is visible by 5pm. and sets soon after 6pm. Bright Jupiter appears above and to the south shortly after Venus. Jupiter sets around 9pm. Between Jupiter and Venus, dimmer Saturn makes its mark as the sky darkens. The ringed planet sets around 7:30pm.
Downtown Alliance Calls on Residents to Turn Food Scraps Into Clean Energy
With the installation of ten compost bins throughout Lower Manhattan, the Downtown Alliance, in partnership with the City’s Department of Sanitation and Brookfield Properties, has made it easier for Downtown residents to live more responsibly. The ten bins accept all forms of organic waste, including all food scraps (even meat and dairy), food-soiled paper, and house plants.To read more…
Fearless Girl Statue Gets a Three-Year Reprieve
On Tuesday morning, Vittoria Fariello, an elected Democratic Party District Leader representing Lower Manhattan (and a candidate for the New York State Senate) organized a rally to support keeping the Fearless Girl statue—artist Kristen Visbal’s bronze likeness of a young female striking a jaunty, audacious pose—at its current location, near the intersections of Broad and Wall Streets.
“This beautiful statue symbolizes the resilience and perseverance of women across the world,” Ms. Fariello said. “It symbolizes women’s empowerment, gender diversity, and equal opportunity for all. And it belongs here, in New York City.” To read more…
Price of Progress
Battery Conservancy Chief Floats Plan for Pier A
Warrie Price, the president and founder of the Battery Conservancy (the nonprofit that designs, builds, and maintains, the 25 acres of historic public parkland at the southern tip of Manhattan) is proposing to adapt the abandoned restaurant space within Pier A as an embarkation point for ferry passengers bound for Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
At a meeting of the Waterfront, Parks, and Cultural Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1) earlier this year, Ms. Price recalled that, “at one point, a visitor center was going to be housed at Pier A, when the Fire Department left and it was at Parks.”
In 1944, many Americans were opposed to taking in European refugees who had been displaced by World War II. In the midst of this unwelcoming climate, 982 refugees, many of whom were Jewish, arrived in Oswego, New York. Here, they were housed at Fort Ontario, the United States’ only refugee camp during the war. In order to be allowed to come to the United States, the refugees had to promise to return to Europe after the war ended. They also faced other difficulties, such as having no legal status in the United States and being unable to work while in the camp. Join the Museum for a program exploring life at Fort Ontario during World War II. The program will feature an introductory presentation by Rebecca Erbelding, historian, archivist, and curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, followed by a conversation with survivors who lived at Fort Ontario, moderated by journalist and Columbia professor Keren Blankenfeld. Free; suggested $10 donation.
The Museum’s director, Carol Willis, will offer a gallery tour of SUPERTALL 2021 that surveys 58 supertalls worldwide and highlights a dozen recently completed towers that represent some of the most stunning new forms and innovative approaches to structural engineering around the world today. Free.
Join us for the timeless Jewish tradition of going to the movies on Christmas Day. This year, we’ll screen Yentl, the iconic 1983 musical based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story “Yentl the Yeshiva Boy.” The film stars Barbra Streisand as a young Jewish woman in eastern Europe who disguises herself as a boy in order to pursue her passion for studying the Torah. The film will be available to stream from Friday, December 24 through Sunday, December 26. Only viewers in the United States will be able to access the streaming platform. The film will be accompanied by an exclusive talkback with Neal Gabler, author of Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity, and Power, and Mattie Kahn, Culture Director at Glamour. Free; suggested $10 donation.
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
Providing Companion and Home Health Aide Care to clients with dementia.Help with grooming, dressing and wheelchair assistance. Able to escort client to parks and engage in conversations of desired topics and interests of client. Reliable & Honest
78 year old refined intellectual gentleman having a passion for cruises and travel seeking a male or female caregiver/companion in exchange for all expense paid venture on the ocean. Only requirement is relationship comfort between us and ability to help with physical care regarding the limitations and restrictions of COPD.
Abstract Actinoid Enlivens Plaza in World Trade Center Complex
Lower Manhattan has a new piece of grand public art.. In November, Silverstein Properties (the operator of the World Trade Center complex) installed “Jasper’s Split Star,” an abstract piece by legendary artist and sculptor Frank Stella on the plaza in front of Seven World Trade Center (located between West Broadway and Greenwich Street, south of Vesey Street).
The metal-clad starburst sculpture is a reprise, of sorts, to Mr. Stella’s 1962 painting, “Jasper’s Dilemma,” which was meant as a tribute to his friend and fellow artist Jasper Johns. Six of the structure’s sides are solid aluminum, and six remain open to reveal shades of blue, purple, and gray. The star motif refers to Mr. Johns’s paintings of flags, and “Jasper’s Dilemma” contained a spectrum of closely related colors.
Lenders Who Fronted Millions to Operators of Pier A Allege Fraud
Investors who lent more than $16 million to the operators behind the shuttered restaurant at Pier A, on Battery Park City’s southern border allege that the borrowers, “used a fraudulent scheme to squeeze out of the Project all the fees and distributions for themselves that they could before shutting the doors.”
In a development first reported by property industry newsletter the Real Deal, the lenders (Tribeca-based New York City Waterfront Development Fund II) filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court in November, seeking the return of $16.5 million (the original amount of the 2011 loan, none of which has been repaid), along with $2.63 million in accrued interest, plus attorney’s fees and court costs.
The defendants in this action are a partnership between the Poulakakos restaurant family (who operate numerous Lower Manhattan eateries) and the Dermot Company (a developer of garden apartment complexes around the United States that more recently branched out to New York projects, such as the conversion of Brooklyn’s landmarked Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower into condominium residences). To read more…
Lower Manhattan Greenmarkets
Greenwich Street & Chambers Street
Every Wednesday & Saturday, 8am-3pm
Food Scrap Collection: Saturdays, 8am-1pm
Open Saturdays and Wednesdays year round
Schedule Changes: Market closed 12/25 for Christmas Day and 1/1 for New Year’s Day.
The loyal community of neighborhood residents who shop at the Tribeca Greenmarket show up each Wednesday and Saturday year-round to get their fix of locally grown produce, sustainably raised meat, seafood, sheep’s milk cheese and yogurt, orchard fruit and berries, herbs, live plants and cut flowers. Cooking demonstrations, raffles, and educational activities make the market a hands-on experience for shoppers of all ages.
Bowling Green Greenmarket
Green Greenmarket at Bowling Green
Broadway & Whitehall St
Open Tuesday and Thursdays, year-round
Market Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Compost Program: 8 a.m. – 11 a.m.
The Bowling Green Greenmarket brings fresh offerings from local farms to Lower Manhattan’s historic Bowling Green plaza. Twice a week year-round stop by to load up on the season’s freshest fruit, crisp vegetables, beautiful plants, and freshly baked loaves of bread, quiches, and pot pies.