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Letter #25 - Thoughts at Winter Solstice

[Editor's note: We asked President Nixon's globetrotting brother, Edward, for some reflections to mark the season. He decided to reprise a poem he wrote 30 years ago this week and sent to the White House.]

Thirty years ago, the Nixon Administration was fervently seeking an honorable way to end the tragic strife in foreign lands. Today, we are pursuing the same goals in some of the same places. In the midst of a war, it is not easy to discern long-term progress, but we have made progress toward greater global community, and it is not insignificant.

What we need now is for more academics to recognize what causes humans to become violent. The airwaves have been full of experts offering concise truths about the causes of terrorism and war. But are enduring questions really so easy to answer? Perhaps an ancient Persian proverb should be taken to heart: "Sell your cleverness and buy some bewilderment."

Throughout history wars were won with technological superiority in the hands of courageous men, then lost with complacent apathy in the hands of petulant politicians. As RN so often acknowledged, the public perception of a glowing economy will guarantee many reelections and vice versa. Peace dividends should never be squandered for the sake of future political elections.

The themes for all of us to keep in mind this coming year, and every year,

is the need for all of us to discern the meaning of real peace, the hazards of selfishness, the importance of new life, and the sources of true wisdom.

Tomorrow, December 21, people living north of the equator will experience the shortest day of the year (and those living in the south, the longest). I am reminded of a poem I wrote 30 years ago that caught the attention of my brother, who called and suggested I keep writing. I'm pleased to reprint it this Christmas in his honor.

Winter Solstice

It's time for the low noon sun to rise.

Time to open perceptive eyes.

Time to declare what solstice means

Besides the glitter of glistening scenes.

The summer sun will soon be here

In just precisely half-a-year.

Winter will yield through Spring, and then

The high noon sun will wane again.

Time goes around in many ways

To bring us back to these twelve days.

Nights are long this time of year,

And even longer up north of here.

Vision and light go hand in hand.

Yet, even at night in a colder land

Reason and sight are running through

On trains of thought, in clearest view.

To see the light in night's disguise

We must unveil our mental eyes.

Then tell the world what solstice means

Besides the glitter of glistening scenes.

More for thoughts that the season brings

And less to worship material things.

Time to forget the pagan ways.

Time to revise the holidays.

Time to remember where we've been.

Time for children - of kith and kin.

Time to reflect and look ahead.

Time to give thanks for daily bread.

Time to begin a meaningful search:

Time to discern the meaning of church;

Time to find ways for wars to end;

Time for diverging beliefs to blend,

Before the noon sun wanes again.

Edward Nixon

December 21, 1971

A postscript: RN, of course, was in the midst of his own "meaningful search" for peace. Ten weeks after writing these lines I received a card postmarked "Beijing, February 25, 1972" and signed "RN and Pat."

Content 2004