|Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2003 - 09:38 am: |
I'd like to take a minute to talk about the true meaning of Christmas - which is of course, presents. And more specifically, the man who brings them, who I think gets a raw deal in terms of stature amongst mythological beings.
If you offend any of the gods of the major religions of the world, on the basis of past performance you're in for a hard time. Plagues of locusts, pillars of salt, whirling arms of death, a fiery eternity spent in perpetual torment - you name it, it will be visited upon you.
Offend Father Christmas, and what's the worst that happens? You might get soot and coal for Christmas instead of the talking Simon Cowell doll you really wanted (comes with five crushing putdowns when you pull the string!). And that's very sad, but I don't think that it really challenges the others in the harshness stakes. You only need to reflect a while on how many people have died in the name of Santa Claus over the course of history. Then do some comparisons.
But what happens in the opposite case, when you have been good and loyally obeyed the tenets? Usually the benefits are some prize promised for delivery when life's over and done with. OK, so they don't offer much *now*, but in the afterlife you will have eternal bliss, be reborn without conflict in your heart, enter another world where everything is made of cheese. Which is all well and good (especially the cheese paradise), but it requires a tolerance for delayed gratification which isn't that common in today's world...and it has to be said, relies a great deal on faith (never!) - as if there isn't an afterlife, and you've spent your entire mortal life avoiding sloth and gluttony to qualify for it, you're not going to be in a position to complain when you get nothing, what with being busy mouldering in your grave.
Not so with the big man in red and white though. Afterlife? Neverending peace? Feh. He gets you BIKES. And spirographs. And dogs. And Playstations. And socks. OK, they may just be socks, but they are at least socks now rather than socks when your feet will be too cold buried deep in the stony ground to get any benefit from them. And all you have to do to let him know is to write your desires on a simple list, and either burn it up a chimney or post it to the north pole. It's somewhat easier than having to live on top of a pillar in the desert for twenty years like an ascetic David Blaine.
It's also worth thinking about what you have to do to qualify for these afterlife free gifts. Stop coveting, right now. Be meek. Wear hairshirts. Renounce sloth and gluttony (excuse me for bringing them up again but you know, having one's hobbies insulted gets tiresome). Always turn the other cheek, even to those you would rather smite mightily. Eat fish on particular days of the week or shellfish not at all or wear a hat or don't wear a hat or marry one woman or marry four women or don't marry anyone at all, or shun various groups of people at various times, chop bits off,add bits on, procreate, abstain, meditate for months under waterfalls or count beads, stand up, sit down, kneel, prostrate yourself, wear colourful knitwear and play dreadful songs on an acoustic guitar. It's exhausting even thinking about it.
And what does Santa demand? Be good. Don't be naughty. That's it. A restatement of the Golden Rule, do unto others and all that. A humanist moral code that manages to encompass a couple of thousand years of philosophy and theology into one phrase, and which rewards adherence with small relatives of the orange fruit stuffed into oversized socks and left on the end of your bed.
No complicated ritual, no bizarre demands, just the simple idea of not being naughty.
If I steal my neighbour's ox, am I being naughty? Obviously. If I embark upon a crusade to kill the unbelievers am I being nice? Nope, he's going to be putting you on his list, for sure, and he'll be checking it more than once. No loopholes, no theological justifications for mass murder in the name of whoever available there.
So leave a glass of whisky out for him, because frankly, I think he deserves it.
Have a good Christmas, everyone.
|Posted on Saturday, July 02, 2005 - 09:49 am: |
Killing all human's one brain cell at a time.
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