My readers tend to develop a vivid impression of me rather early in our relationship, I must say, and I can’t blame them. I mean, this is far from the most pandering blog on the Internet, and I sure haven’t sugared my opinions for anyone, so I suppose forming an opinion of me is a little like sizing-up the character of a covered pie; if you get two or three slices of blackberry, you naturally presume that the rest will not turn out to be cherry, apple, or peach-pecan. In my estimation, this is as it should be, but I must say that I believe my ideas to be independent of any personal touch on my part — that is, I hold current points-of-view based on their logical likelihood to me at present, and consequently I have no pride or ego invested in them — so many things I say can be construed as perpendicular to one another, incompatible, or schizophrenic. I know that. I accept that.
It may well surprise many of you, then, that of Christmas I consider myself a fan. There are many such proponents who cheerfully advocate the holidays, and if you count yourself in this number, please trust in my sincerity and continue without trepidation. This is not a trick, nor sarcasm, nor an insidious ploy to make fun of churchies.
For my friends whom have already begun to feel somewhat betrayed, however, remains the following, which is a brief account of exactly why I feel enthusiasm for such an obviously materialistic time of year. People have raised eyebrows, so I feel an explanation is in order. So merry Christmas! And don’t worry; I won’t get all warm and fuzzy on you. This shit is much too deliberate for that.
Alright, so everybody knows that Thomas Nast dreamed up the American Santa way back during the Civil War, and everybody knows the story about Coca Cola’s campaign to show their product as a winter beverage, about how the campaign successfully launched old Sinter Klaus’s own career here in the states. That’s not too interesting, really, unless it’s news to you; you can get it here from the horse’s mouth if it is. Maybe you should. It’s important to know where our gods come from. What people don’t think too much about, though, is how much more important Santa is to society than many of our other icons and symbols.
For instance (and if this paragraph is a low blow, I apologize) the crucifixion of Christ is an important symbol of selflessness for billions of people. Christian culture sees the crucifixion as a magnanimous act of self-sacrifice for the benefit of mankind, but Santa’s a more suitable symbol for selflessness than Christ is now. It’s hard for agnostics like me to see the crucifixion as a glorious gift, because believers seem much more impressed by Mr. Jesus’ sorcery, his famous trick of rising from the dead like some bearded zombie and ascending into heaven after checking-in with his friends than by his being gracious. I try to never judge a philosophy by its misuse, though, and the truth is that it’s self-sacrifice that allows for so-called salvation in the Christian system, redeeming the world “by the blood of the lamb” like a clinking Hefty bag full of empty Corona bottles at the local recycling center. The Catholic church did a number on the Christ story by putting so much emphasis on miracles over the last seventeen-hundred years, though, mainly in a bid to win converts, so the best symbol for selflessness that humanity had, the Christ figure, has been pathetically reduced to an icon of — shudder — forgiveness, which is not only condescending to non-believers, but accusatory, as well.
Santa, on the other hand, stands for selflessness without complexity or complication. He is the spirit of charity and cheer, of belly laughs and granted wishes. Not to be outdone, he’s also an arbiter of morality, rewarding goodness in our children no matter which family standards outline it. Hell, even if you were bad this year, Santa’s still going to leave some coal in your stocking so you can have a warm Christmas morning. Everyone except a very self-righteous few can celebrate him without checking their church manual for oversights, and everyone with an inclination to be good to his or her fellows can respect an example of selflessness like ol’ Saint Nick.
Selflessness is not a joke, bytheway. If you’re surprised that I back Christmas in spite of its materialistic dark side, consider the importance of social grace and the rewards of a diminished ego. We are much less independent of one another than we pretend. Alienation from the society of humans means madness or death, as does any sufficiently vast divorce from other forms of life such as plants and animals. Consider how arbitrary our independent self-images are! Where do you think your body is divided from the world? At your skin? What about the hairs on your arm — are those you, too? How about the sebum and moisture that your skin produces to protect and lubricate itself, is that you? How about once it evaporates? For that matter, think of the air we breathe. Is that oxygen you when it’s in your lungs, your blood, your brain? When you breathe out, is that breath of air you? Oh, I get it, it’s you when it’s inside you, but it’s not you when it’s outside you. Remember though, everything that makes you up and keeps you alive originated outside of you.
OK, OK, this is all physical, but what about your thoughts, your education, your words; they all started with you, right? No? That’s interesting. And when you speak, those thoughts, those ideas, those will die with you, right? From nowhere to nowhere? No? And economies, and global infrastructure, and the capacity to drive alongside thousands of people every day without an accident, these things clearly show that humans are independent of one another, I suppose?
Nope. No way. We can’t even really tell one another apart without drawing lines “somewhere,” without giving names to things that never a name did need, without choosing cliques in high school, professions in college, and political bumper stickers in November every four years. Oops! I thought you were a friend of mine; you have the same haircut. We do everything in our fucking power to make it look like we’re individuals, but you know the truth. We’re all leaves on the same tree, and that’s where selflessness comes in. You see, selflessness achieves on purpose what evolution attains by accident: a better humanity. So yeah, I’m on Santa’s team.
I don’t need to be more precise, do I? For further study, see Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” pictured above. Don’t watch it if you’ll need to feel macho or Nietzschean at any point over the following few days, though. Trust me on that.