Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas: Fighting for its Life

While hearts and minds continue to fall in love with the spiritual and humanistic ideal of Christmas (peace and joy to all men; to give is better than to receive; the cherished birth of the savior; etc.,), in thought and practice this revered holiday has exceeded those high-minded boundaries to encompass several jurisdictions of human deliberation and behavior. One of the age-old purposes of Christmas—even more so today what with wars, terrorism, the fear of others, Shakespearean insecurities, socio-economic uncertainty, the intoxication of self-indulgent consumerism, and political disarticulation dominating the global scene—is to help people drift off for a time from their temporal setting and reconnect with their spiritual selves. The personal intimacy that is attained with faith, family, and friends is the result of this communing with the Christmas spirit. When people are respectful in body and soul to the Christmas spirit as it should be imagined, there is nothing like it in the human experience. However, an objective portrait renders the Christmas period as a slowly crumbling landscape where frivolous “malling” and product purchasing has superseded spiritual faith, where the song and poetry celebrating the birth of Christ is being drowned out by the chronic stresses of a capitalist existence, and where progressive conceptions of unity and harmony are becoming harder and harder to grasp. When the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said that God was dead some three centuries ago, he meant that God as a transcendent ideal had been decisively rebuffed by man. Sort of the same can be said for Christmas in the 21st century. The winter holiday and all that it solemnly and beautifully symbolizes is fighting for life in the face of an increasingly dangerous and fragmented world. Despondents everywhere are being made to feel that Christmas in the grand scheme of things, is all about being a noble lie. Every December 25 and the weeks and days around it are supposed to represent all that is still good and decent about mankind. Instead, a gigantic “For Sale” sign has been hung on that lofty representation, thus turning Christmas for many into an essentially false call in terms of its themes of love, charity, and brotherhood. In reality, far too many attempt to square their materialistic attitudes with the sublime vision of Christmas by mechanically and perfunctorily performing the customary religious and other ceremonial rituals so as to reinforce the image of nothing being amiss with their moral life and direction. Nothing infuriates me more than to be subjected to the smug sounds and images that spew forth from these holiday dissemblers as they proudly brag about being good Christians and being devoted followers of the Christmas spirit.

Don’t let them fool you. It’s all for show. There is really no feeling or meaning behind their outward expression of faith and fidelity to what Christmas has traditionally been presumed to stand for. You can bet almost anything that these frauds would secretly rather be at the ubiquitous shopping mall or retail outlet rather than engage in serious and concerted self-reflection as we all should every Christmas. For those of you who think that Christmas is still the chaste holiday that it was always meant to be and not the mock spiritual phenomenon that it is being reduced to, hold on tight to the Christmas ideal. Never let it go for the reverberating mania of commercialism and possessiveness is threatening to uproot the everlasting purity of the season. In a world seemingly on the brink, Christmas—as it was conceived by right and honorable mortals so long ago—is struggling to survive as an island of benevolence, togetherness, and serenity in an ocean of polarization and turmoil.


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