Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tidings of comfort and joy.

I had an epiphany on my way to work today. My moments of clarity come without warning, and I'd prefer that they occur behind a keyboard rather than in my car, but the brain is a funny thing - at least mine is. This one: Christmas is a miserable time of the year for me. I don't understand it and I don't enjoy it, so why do I participate? It's a classic example of "it was like that when I got here."
We do a lot of things without thinking about why we do them. Sociologists call them traditions, and the more complicated and deep-rooted the tradition, the more dedicated we are to it and we are less inclined to ask why we do it. Some of the new, stupid ones like Boss's Day are short-lived. We see it on the calendar or a TV ad and wonder, "What the fuck?"
We carry on the Christmas tradition with nary a "what the fuck." Our parents, their parents and generations before all did it, and it gets more ingrained and complex with each passing generation. We're in deep now, and the top of the hole is above our head.
Why do we willingly walk into this ring of fire whose "season" begins earlier with each passing year? What's with all these gifts? Why is it such a big deal?
The retail industry has us by the short hairs because they know how weak-willed we are and how we equate love with things. Shopping centers are packed with sheep who have almost endless lists ... Buying for their brother, their brother's kids, their friend and their friend's kids, their co-workers ... on and on, like the world's largest gift chain-letter. Buying for one qualifies the next in line, lest evil befall you - or the guilt of omission.
It's the common refrain, "Oh, I didn't get you anything," as though receiving a gift automatically requires you to give one. You gotta love our culture.
I think the retail industry relies on our short memories. We forget, after nearly a year, how much of a nuisance Christmas is. The song says "it's the most wonderful time of the year," but I stopped listening to songs when my parents told me to put my Black Sabbath records away. Besides, if it was such a wonderful time of the year, it wouldn't be 25 degrees and windy. If you really wanted to plan a legal holiday of consumption, you would do so in the summer when we have the energy to go outdoors.
The religious types would tell you that it's Jesus' birthday. Not only is that a fallacy, but it also requires that you believe that Jesus was the son of God. I don't have the time to explain it, so read this and pass it along. Meanwhile, ask your religious friends this question:
If your God had wished us to observe his son's birthday, wouldn't we know exactly when it was? December 25 is an arbitrary date and none of you know why. Jesus was born about 6 weeks after Passover, nearer to September than now. Those "Let's Keep Christ in Christmas" people are severely misguided, since Christ has nothing to do with Christmas. They should be dancing around their Pagan tree with their other Christian friends and praying to Santa Claus.
Mostly, we observe Christmas for two reasons (1) People tell us to and (2) We like getting stuff. The gravitational pull of Jupiter isn't as strong as peer pressure and greed. It's a great basis for a holiday.
It's tough to get out. It's harder than throwing a trash can away. (It keeps getting returned to you because you can't possibly have meant to leave it in the trash.) There is no network or formal pronouncement you can make. It's more likely that they'll buy you junk anyway, so you have to make a pronouncement around Thanksgiving (the former beginning of the Christmas marketing season) and hope that people take you as seriously as they take people who quit smoking or decide to lose weight.
All sorts of people are committed to one lifestyle or another. They're vegetarians, sports fans, non-drinkers and non-smokers, among other things. Nobody bugs the sports fans or non-smokers because they chose to opt out of a particular lifestyle, yet you'll probably be questioned severely when you proclaim your aversion to Christmas. Somebody once told me that "because I don't want to" is the best reason for not doing something, and the only one you need.
So, I don't want to, and I'm done with it. I'm just sorry it took this long for me to figure it out. Why should I participate in self-induced stress and misery if I don't have to? Peer pressure is a bad reason for kids to start smoking, but it's an acceptable way for them to start a silly tradition like Christmas. That makes good nonsense. You can't blame peer pressure and embrace it too. It's either good or bad. So, let you kids smoke if you think peer pressure is OK.
If going through this Christ-mess makes you feel better, have at it. But if you're stressed-out and wondering why you do all of this, then ask yourself why and make an effort to stop - just like you would stop eating too much if being 300 pounds could make your heart explode.
Get out. It will be easier than you think. If you want to lose weight, you have to change your life. To get out of this Christmas scheme, all you have to do is make it through a month.
Then, you'll have amassed valuable experience that you can use to work on Valentine's Day.


junior alien said...

Hey, nice equation: Christ-mess = peer pressure + greed.
I for one quit the stress: not gifts, no Christmas decoration, no Christmas tree. But sometimes there is no escape from the cultural hauntings: a well-meaning friend of mine sent me a small (potted) Christmas tree per mail!!! So now it's sitting out there on the balcony, and I had almost forgotten about it until I read your "Christmas post".

In general I think that the majority of people don't like using their brains and enjoy being sheep in a flock. So then there's the shepherd who's taking good care of us and the dog who's chasing us round making us stay together. It's a clearly arranged life, isn't it?

Christmas among other tradition gives people an orientation. If you don't have the orientation in yourself (for what you'd need a well-working brain and a non-materialistic attitude), Christmas is more than welcome to superficially ENJOY life.

So aren't you just a bellyacher, carper, caviler, crabber, fuddy-duddy, grouch, grumbler, knocker, nagger, niggler, quibbler, squealer? (Haha, actually I don't think so, but the online dictionary gave me alle these expressions).

Just keep going!

Kcoz said...

I’m one of the original members of the “I don’t want to” club…welcome aboard!
When I told an old girlfriend of mine that I would buy her a gift on Christmas but NO TREE in my pad, she makes a miniature one in her ceramics class and brings it over…got me on a technicality.

What Sabbath Albums did you have? Remember their first one with the witch on the cover? It was my favorite, than Paranoid. I can’t for the life of me remember the name of that first album; I think it was simply named “Black Sabbath”

And a very merry Bha-Humbug to you!

Anthony said...

I had all the Sabbath albums. The first one was called "Black Sabbath." "Volume 4" was my favorite, but I loved "Master of Reality" too. I was with them right up until "Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath," then Iommi left and I lost interest.

Kcoz said...

I still get a kick out of Ozzy, that reality show he had pulled a 180 on people, where we found out that the prince of darkness was really a inherently lovable character.

I also got a kick out of the commercials he was in where he babbles something to people and they say “What!”, so he sends them a text message…LOL!

Yea..."Master of Reality" is another good album.

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