Monday, December 31, 2007

Wrap it Up, I'll Take It

It’s been a good season.
I have been the recipient of some great and gracious gifts, and have had the pleasure of surprising a couple of people, myself. We’ve had good travel, good food, and some genuine times. The kids are growing up – my niece Megan stunned my senses as she came through the doorway – she’s not a little girl, anymore. Her old uncle was as pleased as punch to be her old uncle and show her how to string her new guitar, albeit left-handed. I am not the kind of guy that kids gravitate toward (call it an homage to W.C. Fields, call it what you will); it was nice to have a reason to converse with her. If she brings it over next year, then I’ll know that I’m just being used to perform a mundane chore, but, now that it occurs to me, it’d still make me quite happy.
As one who chews on things, this is the time of year for mental mastication. So far, nothing tasty is appearing. There’s a lot going on, and a lot to do. One of my online friends, Tom, has kicked up that whole doing/being/where do you want to go today? dustbowl. Whether it’s the passage of time, inertia, or the seven stages of Death, I’m more comfortable right now that I be what I be. Doing has always been the bug in the balm. How do I show who I be to me son? By what I doing. How’m I doing? Not so good, I fears. He’s a great kid, maybe I doing alright.
This has been a year of doing what needs to be done. Will we do better, starting tomorrow? I don’t know.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tis the Season

Boy, life just goes on, doesn't it? There's a lot going on around me, anyway. This is typically the time of year when I get sick. I think I'm an undiagnosed bipolar personality. Why, you may ask? Because everyone needs a diagnosis these days, don't they? Why am I ending every sentence with a question mark? Is it because I need you to agree with me? Well, don't I?
Apologies. I am a member of the Seinfeld generation. I am not an Israelite, but I did work for a wonderful man for 7 years who once advised me "Always answer a question with a question!" I was also eligible to marry one of his daughters at that point, but, alas, I was already married, and they were too cool for a goyim geek like me. Miriam would have never allowed it.
The nanny state upped the ante another notch; I was required by STATE LAW, as a healthcare worker, to either get a flu shot or sign yet another document stating that I was refusing same. What the writer of Revelation didn't realize was that, by the time we'd have so many forms to fill out, we'd welcome a barcode on our foreheads just to save time. The insidious thing about a flu shot is that most of my coworkers and I felt lousy for a few days afterward, but not unwell enough to stage a strike or call a press conference to announce that it was a complete failure, ala Mike Aguirre. I hope I don't get the flu this year, I really don't.
I'm feeling particularly bombarded by sensory input, this year. There are a few projects in the works, one that's pretty exciting and intimidating at the same time. At the moment I'm waiting for information for a writing/presentation project that will be due in 23 days. It looms. Annoyed by both advertising, and anti-advertising. A very cute video piece from a friend about "Merry Tossmas", encouraging me to throw away every ad or catalogue that panders to everyone, instead of just Christians, by not calling the holiday Christmas, but merely a "Holiday." I am certainly one of those people who like to "call a spade a spade", and I know and fully expect everyone to call it a "Christmas Tree", and the day is Christmas. A store catalogue, in a multi-cultural society - and we are one BY DEFINITION, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN - is a shotgun blast. Good marketing is targeted, and L. L. Bean should know who their kwanzaa customers are. All 57 of them. Getting upset about the 'dilution' of Christmas is sounding the call after the dam has broken.
It is ridiculously cowardly that we cannot call Christmas Christmas on a school flyer, or sing Christmas carols in school that mention the event. That is exclusion, not correctitudinousness. I personally see the observance of Hanukkah, the observance of a miracle of God's provision for His people, as the perfect prelude to Christmas - but that's just me. I also see the Cross when I look at a Christmas Tree. I'm a Bittersweet kinda guy. Gee, I'm not sure where this comes from, but we should be looking for opportunities to encourage - children, in particular - to recognize and apprecieate their cultural diversity. That includes not banning Christ from Christmas. I remember singing "The Draedle song", in school, as a kid.
We're losing the ability to open our arms - culturally, emotionally, religiously, politically, physically.
I know this is a digression, but it's part of the bombardment. I heard a great quote, on the radio this week, from Sen. John McCain regarding the United States using torture. A man who knows (this, from a speech in February):

"Many years ago, a scared American prisoner of war in Vietnam was tied in torture
robes by his tormenters and left alone in an empty room to suffer through the
night. Later in the evening, a guard he had never spoken to entered the room and
silently loosened the ropes to relieve his suffering. Just before morning, that
same guard came back and re-tightened the ropes before his less humanitarian
comrades returned.
He never said a word to the grateful prisoner, but some months later on a Christmas morning as the prisoner stood alone in the prison courtyard, the same Good Samaritan walked up to him and stood next to him for a few moments. Then with his sandal, the guard drew a cross in the dirt. Both prisoner and guard stood wordlessly there for a minute or two venerating the cross until the guard rubbed it out and walked away. This is my faith, the faith that unites and never divides, the faith that bridges unbridgeable gaps in humanity. That is my religious faith and it is the faith I want my party to serve, and the faith I hold in my country. It is the faith that we are all equal and endowed by our creator with unalienable rights to life liberty and the
pursuit of happiness. It is the faith I would die to defend."

Now, that's not the quote. The quote is "It's not about them. It's about us."
I would not be surprised at all if Christmas is eventually removed as an "official" holiday, at least from the government's books. That does not mean that most of us will stop celebrating it or taking several days off, even. Perhaps we might even be able to clear away some of the dreck that hangs off the event and focus more on the meaning, as a result. Nah, silly me. We'll just add some more Federal and State days off, and see if they catch on with shoppers. No one will be working, by then, anyway. I don't think we'll ever have to revert to sketching crosses or icthuses in the sand, but it means living our individual lives with courage, not caving in to committees.
Massacre in a mall. Al-Qaieda doing this, we brace ourselves for, but like Oklahoma City, we manage to provide the home-grown event. The searing knowledge that Christmas won't be the joyous event for everyone.
Bombardment. Multi-tasking. We feel guilty if we're not doing at least 3 things, simultaneously. I love the houseboat because there's usually only one thing to be done, and that it entails eating, sleeping, or simply looking out across the expanse of water to allow the noise level in my brain subside. Remembering it, this week, was a reminder to seek some peace in the middle of all of this.
Christmas is coming. There's no avoiding it, even if you call it something else. It will be gone, soon enough, and, with any luck, we'll have a few moments of peace, joy, and goodwill toward men to remember, perhaps even record. Wise men do still seek those moments, and I hope they find them.
I hope you don't find this to be a depressive essay, my intent is to spur you (and myself) to action, whether it be to your community, your family, or to your heart. Seek Peace, even if you need to make some. Smell the fresh wreath that's been sent to you by a friend, and smile. Give the gifts that you have. Let the gratitude of the Thanksgiving (remember that, already?) harvest beget the sharing of same with those whose crops didn't come in. Put up a Festivus pole, if you have to.
As for me, I'm going to spend some time over the next couple of weeks seeking a baby in a manger, no crib for a bed, who continues to try to bring Love to a world, bombarded.