Monday, December 21, 2009

Blame it on Santa

Could it be that the collapse of faith that our country has experienced over the last fifty or so years was "all because of Santa Claus?"

A case could be made...

Ah, the baby boom generation...Never has a generation been given so much; or destroyed so much...

The gauzy, sweet world in which the children of the Greatest Generation were brought up was meant to be a correction to the childhood-stealing grim realities that their parents experienced coming up; a world of global economic depression and war. Picture perfect families in picture perfect homes experiencing picture perfect holidays was the goal in this new time of plenty. Santa, being the beloved old icon of goodness that he is, had a field day during this era of Ike, Uncle Walt and Uncle Miltie.

One of the first traumas that the children of this prosperity encountered was when it was discovered that their beloved Santa was not "real." The idea that all their striving for the approbation of this jolly old elf was for naught was the first chip in the "perfect" veneer of the crafted world made for them, and in true child fashion, they kept picking and picking at the veneer as they developed until the dirty "truth" was exposed beneath the whitewash of "lies" that their parents had so carefully wrought.

School, government, families, church, every bastion of order and faith was first doubted, then exposed, then decried, then abandoned to some degree or another.

And the soulless miserable "truth" was left for generations to come...Hallelujah...

Somewhere along the way we lost the distinction between "true" and "factual". As science became our new faith we lost the fine art of symbolism, of myth, of understanding through story and image concepts too large and unwieldy to be perceived in mathematical formulae.

Perhaps none of our religious myths are factual, but many are true. There is no way to verify many facts in such an ethereal field, but we do know that we are here, products of some great mysterious power, little pin pricks of mortal energy in a vast and roiling complex of ever transmogrifying power, given five faulty and failing tools with which to try to perceive and make sense of it all. The X factor here is that we can share our findings, not just with our fellow mortals toiling through the void, but with all of the ones who came before us who bothered to pass on what they knew, and with those whom we hope will follow after us. The thing that works best for us it seems, is when we have a "why" in which to put our faith in to help to muddle through the "what" of reality. The trick is in our perception: if you believe too factually in the myth you become a jihadist zealot. To make it work for you takes a bit of a poetic approach. Why did Christ speak in parables, or stories, rather than just espousing dogma?

Part of the problem for modern folks is we are too in on the sausage making. We know how movie magic is done, so movies, as swell as they can make 'em look these days, seem to leave us flat all the same. It is hard to imagine the days when people ran screaming from the image of a train moving at them on a movie screen, or wondering if "they" really trained a giant ape to perform King Kong. Even the most casual fan can bore you to tears with the facts about green-screen technology employed in film today. Yes, we know that The Wizard of Oz is fake; a bunch of Hollywood hoofers, midgets and drug addicted starlets all made up and dusted with pixie dust to create an illusion. But does that mean that the movies' values, the beliefs in friendship, honor, loyalty, courage, etc. etc. are false, too? This is babies and bathwater territory.

I tell my kids about Santa because he is fun. He is a symbol of societal justice for children: the good shall be rewarded, the assholes punished. That is a healthy thing. I don't make a big deal about how "real" he is. They have fun with the dream of Santa and who am I to rain on that parade? If I see things are getting out of hand, I will try to correct the course while still keeping the "truth" about why we have Santa around, what purpose he fulfills. The same with all the other bigger questions to come: there is a collective wealth of wisdom and power in our institutions, only a fool would toss them all away because they utilize illusion to illustrate their values. The biggest gift I can think of to give my kids is the power of discernment when dealing with the shitstorm of information that they are going to be subjected to while moving through this world; a lot is junk, some of it is gold.

Which is just, in reality, a very pretty, shiny, rock...

Merry Christmas to all!