Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Giftmas

The December holidays have evolved, in Euro-American culture, into a generically religious event. Giftmas seems like an appropriate name.

Giftmas is probably most prevalent in the United States. We are the kings of consumerism.

While many people complain about the commercial avalanche burying the solemn, joyous religious event that supposedly underlies all this celebratory activity, I have a problem only with the excess that seems to accompany every American demonstration of strong emotion. Excess defines the good life for many Americans. What is more good than Christmas?

The good of Giftmas is the warmth of human fellowship that supposedly accompanies our salvation. The flaw is that Christmas is a classic case of "I have good news and bad news." The good news is that you are saved from death by this cute li'l baby. The bad news is that assholes still rule the Earth, so not much has changed. You need to overthrow yourself and then take whatever the assholes dish out without stooping to their level. Meanwhile, the cute little baby is going to grow up to be a scruffy-looking adult who will preach inspiring sermons and get nastily executed by the assholes in charge. That sacrifice is supposed to complete the salvation formula.


Since most human and animal emotion seems to have a biochemical basis, I am trying to figure out the biochemical basis for the Christmas spirit. No doubt the emotion predates the dispersion of Christianity. Is it rooted in this season in the northern temperate zone because of qualities of sun angle? Can it be that simple? All of winter lies ahead. We are hardly safe from the grasp of cold or the wounds of wind and weather. Yet somehow this moment marks a strong enough birth of hope to give imported Christian legends something to settle on. Aside from satisfying scientific curiosity, it probably doesn't matter.

People came into the shop all week, filled with unusual warmth. Some of them are normally scary rednecks. They don't seem like the type to get all gooey and warm over a soul-saving ancient infant or the fretful, warring creeds that child's life ushered in. No, the spirit of Giftmas lies upon them. They absorb and reflect its warm glow for a magical few days before returning to their more customary demeanor. They may identify it with the modern form of Christianity. They may be right, to the extent that modern Christianity (anything later than about 100 AD) is a big junk box full of whacked theology, accreted through the centuries with other useful bits of belief and ritual from lands it entered and systems it absorbed. The modern believer needs to look with unfocused eyes on the lighted facade of the beautiful church, listen to the sonorous pronouncements of benevolence and not poke too hard at any of it.

The modern unbeliever can enjoy the pretty lights and pleasant sentiments without the need to plug into the vast matrix of whacked theology. It's still nice to think of everyone getting along in warmth and fellowship. Like so many gifts, it gets used up, broken or lost by early January, but the reinforcement helps. The goal, getting along in warmth and fellowship, is a good one. It will save us from our destruction. We don't have to hug and slobber all over each other. Indeed, I would prefer not to. But we need to get along. Anything that reinforces the idea that we are all connected at a basic level helps to keep that goal near the front of many minds. So the basic concepts of Giftmas transcend specific faiths. And the rituals can be fun. Enjoy the food, the lights, whatever music you like, and the upwelling of generosity. Those are all genuinely good. What better gift could you want?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Morning broadcast

In honor of all the politicians on TV this morning, I'm having waffles for breakfast.

In other news: Tiger Woods pays minor fine, but faces multi-million dollar lawsuit brought by the tree. Tree claims damage to limbs, diminished desire and ability to pollinate due to post traumatic stress.