Back at Thanksgiving, my brother asked if I would be posting a Christmas letter this year. I gave him some sort of non-answer to the effect, that; I hadn't really thought about it yet.
Back when these sorts of missives were written out longhand, and then photocopied; I was much more likely to give a definitive answer. This year, I am less certain.
It hasn't been such a very weird year that I could not find it in me to write, but rather; why bother? No major personal crises to discuss herein, but rather a long-haul marathon of endurance. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other! Do we really need yet more words of that kind?
The world is awash in words, we are clobbered by them through medium after medium. Thousands and then millions (and billions?) of them are flying around at any given time.
Do mine matter?
In the case that they do matter (somewhat), then it seems to me, that we ought speak, and so we end up right back here!
I can recall quite a few of Christmas time (why "season") assertions to the effect that "the true meaning of Christmas" has been (or at present is being) lost.
To my ear, these sorts of declarations are weirdly hollow. It might be like saying; "The real secret to driving cars has been overlooked". All right, well perhaps it has, remind me of just what that secret is, will you? And here we get reminiscing on the good old days of dirt roads, and how fun hand crank starting can be. We get horror tales of road accidents, and complaints about cops. We get a lot of attendant mentions, and the secret remains secret.
The true meaning, the real secret is apparently in a dual function mode here. It is noticed by not being there, and simultaneously remains (itself) undefined. The attendant or parallel manifestations are brought up, and by inference, we are to deduce the thing that fills the void?
So, the wind in the hair, the roar of the engine act as escorts or companions in this type of discussion. The one main thing which I (stupidly) assumed we were talking about is referred to only indirectly.
Likewise, evergreen wreaths, candles and food form a similar surrounding cadre. The true meaning of Christmas is rarely if ever laid out in such a fashion that even a blockhead like me could grasp the point which is being made. Rather, the surrounding host of retainers is treated as sufficient "evidence" of the really large "ya know-wha-di-mean" in question.
Part of this phenomenon is a disjointed or muted grasp of the past. The contrast thus being arrived at is a "now vs. then" comparison. The true meaning (it is affirmed) relates to a "magical" thinking found (usually most obviously) in small children. The nostalgic in us, thus bends the shape of the "then" in question. In our re-created memories, old Christmas time was better than this.
In my opinion, this is mainly why we make such a fuss over kids at this time of year. They are the present day carriers of "the magic".
I don't recall when precisely that I became aware of the magical language surrounding the Nativity, but it was no later than in my mid-twenties it seems. The words which we use at this "season" are freighted with "magic". It is a bit difficult to describe just the functionality involved, in that it is (much) moreso a mood, a feel thing. The language is to the effect that there is a "spirit of Christmas" which we are socially obliged to "get into".
The mental effects of reefer come to my mind. A languid and satisfied, a naive and simple, it is something along these lines we note. This mood is connected to a sort of spontaneity to "do something nice for" (especially strangers) someone. I hope that I am being fair here?
The language of magic is linked to magical thinking. I sometimes laugh when others ask; "How in the world did you get that plumbing in there?". I sometimes make up crazy little stories about doing a severe compound wink plus incantation. It is more interesting than; "We dug like wild men". That is, the "how of things" which get done; is related to our bent toward magical thinking.
In the old "I Dream of Jeannie" TV series, she would cross her arms, and do a strongish blink, and that was how things happened. Perhaps similarly, the reason we are so in love with digital devices is that they are a bit like a clumsy weakling of a Jinn! The further developments of Google or Facebook "knowing" where you are at any given time is both food for paranoia, and strangely comforting.
We as humans "need to" believe in a magic of some kind, and as a community we are both embarrassed by this, and love the heck out of it! So, an annual time has been set aside for such a kind of sentimental frivolty. It just so happens that this annual release coincides with the birth of the Savior. There is no natural connection between Santa Claus and Jesus of Nazareth, except for a sloppy kind of thinking in many. But, is it possible to reunite the two?
From over here the situation looks like this. The need in us for magic is a half-remembered link back to The Almighty. Recall that in Moses' day, Pharoahs' court magicians could do similar works as did Moses. But then; they were flatly outclassed, and they appealed to their king. "Hey! Pay attention: these works are the hand of God" said they. The links here are the elements of the Covenant perhaps best deemed; "The Transcendental, and the Heirarchal". We sorta-kinda recall that the Most High is also the lawful King of the realm, and "lives outside of it". Now, (of course!) He is simultaneously operating inside it, and thus immanence is the flip side to transcendance. Similarly, the Power behind power became a completely helpless baby. It is both/and, not either/or.
We have a hunger in us, pointing to a food outside of us. Life itself is rooted in a "magical" context. And until that sad day on which we give up on life, we equate (to some extent) magic with love, and that with life.
It is therefore no surprise (to me at least) that suicide prevention is very strongly stressed at just this "season". The longing for the "magical" if not satisfied, yields an empty set. No magic, no love. No love, why bother with life? And for many, this time of year is thus downright unhealthy, deadly even!
Now, the basic problem involved with kings is access. In ancient times, you never, ever turned your back on the sovereign. But, getting into the throne area was for all practical purposes a non-issue, so the etiquette wasn't a burden. Magicians and astrologers attended the king. To unite the two offices requires persons (plural). This, is what Christmas is about!
Magical thinking in us thus is a type of partial memory that once there was a place, once there was a time where things made sense. It was a rendezvous point which was safe, cozy and fiercely glad!
But, there is no route back to Eden. You can't get there from here. And because of that, it appears (to some) that the desire in us for "the magic" of that place/time is either a silly dream to be forgottten, or something which we are to ourselves fabricate. In that latter case, the basic "how to" must require a magic of our own making! And that is deadly. I hope I am being clear here?
The short version of all this, is the end of abstractions. The abstract of Eden, a kind of "Utopia" has been repeatedly tried in history. These attempts at heaven on earth have uniformly been insanely hellish affairs in reality. You can't get there from here. In brief, we require a new starting point! But, along with that we require a new end point.
It is a bit disorienting to think of somebody as a destination, but it works. To reach the hand of the lifeguard while being dragged out to sea by a rip-tide comes to mind. A lost child is not interested in going home, he wants Mom!
So then, the thing which made paradise so paradisical wasn't the address or the furniture, it was He Who Is "there". Likewise, the thing which makes heaven so heavenly is Him Who Is "there". And so, where ever "there" proves to finally be, it will be Him-there which is the guarantee of joy. He the goal, He the reward. That is the idea of Christmas.
This marvel is already begun! Where ever there is life, there is hope. And where ever there is hope, He is "near". Coincidence? I think not. The gift of life is given . . . by her Giver. In the transaction of accepting it, we accept Him. This is the real sticking point for us it appears to me.
What we say we want is the goods, the stuff of life, and so this bent in us also links with the "season". And we also quickly find that this heap of things was certainly not what we really wanted. We disagree strongly with ourselves in principle!
The end of abstractions thus allows us to find (or rather, be found of) Him.
The Christmas story then is Him coming, coming to dwell with, to join. It means then that there are now two races, two kinds of humans. There are those who trust Him, or one day shall. And it means that there are others who do not, and never shall. We ourselves are unable to tell the difference between the two with any real accuracy.
Thus, He-Himself becomes the cutting edge of the knife dividing the two. And this can only mean that He-Himself is the only One crossing over into our prisons walls so to visit "in us"! As Author of Life, the Builder of Is, He shines the True Light, and from our perspective it is ever-new!
And in that marvelous light, we see anew. The reunion between the Nativity and the fat guy with poor taste in winter-wear can begin!
The ground rules include that we stay real. Our hunger for the magic is to be re-examined. We want the real magic! It turns out, that all along, our desire for it was but a shabby caricature of the Guy for whom weird physics is normal. That is, He the original, next the magician as the lousy copy. There is an order, a sequence to things. The rules are not many, but if we let Santa in the door, we must remember that it is but the weakness of our eyes, and the poverty of our souls which ever mistook the two in the first place.
You give milk to babies, and so (I think) it is quite all right to tell toddlers of a "Father above" (North on a map) who loves and knows them full well. And if in juvenile minds, that reminder appears as an image, it would be best that the depiction not talk too much.
A few "Ho, ho, ho's" by the chap and he is off! All is as it ought be. That is, the faith is a large enough tent to let Santa in. But the symbol contains him holding the reins, and that simply will not do!
The most astonishing magic trick of all time, the Creation of Is, and that being peopled by living souls has recently been superceded! The Author of the story has entered into His own novel?
If Mark Twain could have pulled off that kind of stunt, how in the world he ever convince Huck or Tom that he was their "author"? How could he get them to buy the premise that he came from a realer and "higher up" world, sorta "above and behind" them? Would it be helpful for Huck if he said; "My world is the actual, and yours the copy"? Would they ever believe that their world only existed because he made it so?
Well, he would have to find a way somehow to make it convincing for them, that much is sure. But, really the only way for them to convert to his view would be for Twain to write that in as part of his story, eh?
And so we arrive at our destination . . .
Merry Christmas 2016!