I am dreaming of a Commercial Christmas, just like the one we have every year.
You are a hard one to shop for: you have everything, maybe two of everything. Still, I feel compelled to show my love by buying you things. I clutch my credit card like a holy talisman.
Hey, I got you a whole bunch of electronic gear. It arrived safely from Amazon, boxed in a couple trees’ worth of cardboard and wrapped in enough plastic to gag a whale. Hope you like all that stuff. And I got you another sweater, just like last year’s but a different color — now you have the whole set: Forest Green, Desert Taupe, Persian Melon, Cranberry Red, and Cobalt Blue. (Upon examination it looks like the tag is slightly offset. We must excuse the 10-year-old Bangladeshi boy working his machine for over 10 hours a day. He was distracted by some boys outside kicking around a soccer ball; he wished he had a soccer ball; he and his friends fish a plastic bag out of the sewage canal, stuff it with the rags they can no longer wear, and use it for a ball while it lasts.) Hope you like the sweater.
Hey Scrooge: Lighten up! There is another side to this holiday, and you know it. Beyond the subliminal and not-so-subliminal atmospheric urgings to buy-buy-buy, there is something else in the air. There is a reason this celebration takes place at this, the bleakest time of year (well, outside of February), with its short days and meager light. For thousands of years our ancestors gathered at this season to defy the bleakness of the universe with warmth and hope.
Remember going to the Outer Cape Chorale holiday concert in our beautiful town hall? Remember the incredible blending of voices and instruments into a soaring, soul-elevating palpable thing? Bach’s Magnificat and Handel’s Messiah: music is a miracle — a human construct that goes beyond the songs of birds, the sighing of the wind through empty branches, the waves kissing the shore. It is a gift we give of ourselves to ourselves.
The voices of those mortal beings — men and women — ascended into the brightly lit space of the auditorium and became a newly created thing unto itself and merged with the listeners. The singers opened their mouths and let out sound that became a message of yearning and hope. Don’t bother about the lyrics: they are at best unnecessary and at worst expressions of exclusivity. Beyond, or below, their meaning is the real message: Peace on Earth, Goodwill … Glory … and don’t forget Hallelujah!
The only rational response is one of emotion, of uplift, of positivity. This experience reinforces the notion that there is a human soul that exists outside (or coexists within) our bodily form, that there is a spiritual dimension to our otherwise ordinary existences.
I hope it is true. I will live as if it is true. Happy Holidays.