Thursday, December 18, 2008
Happy Solstice, and Non-Specific Governing Force of the Universe, bless us everyone!
So here's another insignificant issue that I have no simple answer for... well except for the bread and jam part -- Francis is spot on, and bread and jam should be part of every meal... but on the other two - I've stood a bit on both sides of the fence, arguing with myself, like a true student of philosophy. As a somewhat-newly realized political moderate, I still cling to a fistful of conservative-type views of the world, trying not to ignore the decaying quality of propriety, and of our tradition and resolve in the world. At the same time, I try to choose my battles wisely.
I've been told by a few intelligent people that they think I look and sound and smell like a libertarian (I think the mix of selfish-scotch and careless-hippyism hanging on my recent history cued their noses) -- but I think rights are invented things, not inherent to the social life - and in that sense, not an intrinsic good. So that's sort of like being a Christian who thinks Jesus was just a 'neatish kinda guy.'
So moving forward with the Jesus thing -- this is a season of mostly religious holidays. That's the premise on which this bickering is based, and somewhat humorously, it's become a relatively faulty one. But I'll come back to that. The arguments basically unfold as such:
1. Christmas is a particular religious holiday
2. Not all of us are members of that religion, or celebrate Christmas
3. The public offering of celebration wishes should be inclusive, as not to marginalize or offend those to whom certain observances may not apply.
4. The idea that Christmas has transcended religious views, and as a normal part of our culture, should not be considered offensive - is not convincing or fair. Perhaps one had his/her children eaten by the Ferocious Christian of Waukesha, or he/she was forced by his/her schoolmates to eat cross-shaped Christmas cookies to the point of traumatic stomach discomfort. We all know that any degree of sensitivity to non-neutral expressions of thought or belief is possible, and we must plan our lives accordingly.
1. Stop being such a nancy and eat another cookie, or I'll sick the FC of W on you.
2. There is no #2
So those are the two positions, in a nutshell. But despite the merrychristmasers' claim that there is no #2, I think they're both completely full of shit.
As with most things of theological 'significance,' the celebration of Christmas was discussed, drawn up, bickered over, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public enquiry, lost again, signed in triplicate, and eventually agreed upon by old, snaggletoothed white men in very tall hats and gold robes. The short version of the story is that a few hundred years ago, they began a hostile takeover of Winter Solstice - mainly by setting the celebration of the birth of Christ (which probably took place sometime in Autumn) 4 days removed from said Solstice. Since then, more white people have continued their work, adopting one Solstice tradition after another, wrapping them in swaddling clothes, placing them a manger, and calling them Christianity. Holly, ivy, mistletoe, yule log, the giving of gifts, decorated trees, magical reindeer, etc. -- you guessed it -- all Solstice.
So, as one is what one eats, Christmas has become what the Christians stomped out so long ago: a pagan celebration of giving, generic good will, and the worship of tangible things -- egg nog, ipods, celestial bodies, whatever. But I do agree that our new traditions are just like believing in God -- trampelled Walmart employees, neverending delays at LaGuardia, arguments with relatives, supressing our natural needs, giving in to authority figures, and listening to great aunt Mervleputz talk drunkedly about all the people she knows who have died since last Christmas, and from what disease, and at what hostpital.
But even with all the shades of similarity, Christmas is not, and has never been, a religious holiday for most. We're really just celebrating the shortest daylight of the year with red and green flair four days late. So when the vehement bullies demand that 'Merry Christmas-es' fill our American air, it doesn't offend me, but I don't exactly agree.
So Happy Solstice, one and all. Enjoy your bread and jam, and any of you guys call me Francis... and I'll kill you.