Archive for December, 2009

Secular Greetings

Friday, December 25th, 2009

So here it is, Christmas Day. We’ve made it past Hanukah, rounded the curve of the solstice and are gearing up for New Year’s. Happy holidays indeed.

For those that celebrate.

And that should be you. Not because some mythical messiah needed to have a birthday party that isn’t actually on the day he was born. Not because the oil lasted longer than expected. Not even because it’s about time the days started getting longer. You should celebrate just because you can. It’s an excuse for a party and that’s reason enough. Don’t celebrate Christmas just because you’re Christian and don’t give up on Christmas just because you’re not.

Holidays aren’t just for the holy anymore. Take a look at that word, “holiday,” it was originally two words “Holy Day,” and was used strictly for religious observances, but that strict meaning was abandoned long, long, ago. And believe me, God thinks that’s a good idea. She knows life is hard. She says that anything that allows us to promote peace on Earth and goodwill towards men while keeping a straight face shouldn’t be kept in reserve for the religious nuts, it should be spread as far and wide as possible. So as far as the “war on Christmas” is about secularizing the holiday rather than getting rid of it, she thinks its a good idea.

Someday we’ll have to teach people that Christmas was once a religious thing, the same way we now have to point out the roots of the word “holiday.” I’ve been considering Christmas to belong to everyone for a long time now. I don’t think I’m fighting reality here, I just think I’m ahead of the curve.

Oh Happy Christmas

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Well, it’s a week to Christmas. It’s past time for me to complain about how early some stores put up their decorations or start playing the music of the season. It’s even past time to gripe about yet another version of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol.

But it is time to talk about nostalgia. That’s what Christmas often seems to be about. We use the season to drag out idealized images of the past, to talk about when family was king, to hoist our glasses in traditional toasts and fill up our bellies with traditional roasts.

So what is it about Christmas that brings in so much more of days gone by than does Easter, or Halloween, or myriad other holidays? That was my question for God this week. And what did she say? She blames it on the movies. When we see George Bailey discover how loved he is, when we see Scrooge learn the importance of generosity, when we see that Red Rider Range Model Rifle gleaming in the store window, it takes us back. It takes us back not only to our own childhoods but to our parents’ and to their parents’ before them.

And God looks down and sees that it is good.

And for at least one night a year, we all get to live happily ever after.

One Lump or Two?

Friday, December 11th, 2009

I don’t have any of the specific statistics in front of me right now, but over the last few years I’ve read some reports about the various things in which people believe. One of the things that’s stuck with me is that there is a definite tendency to believe more in things that we like than in things that we don’t.

For instance, in this hypocritically Christian nation of mine (that’s the United States) there’s a lot more people that believe in Angels than in Demons. It probably comes as no surprise than that there are more believers in Heaven than in Hell. And of course, a ton of people that will never be rich still vote Republican even though it’s against their best interests.

So I talked to God about this. This is one of those times when I’m not sure how seriously to take him. He told me that a lot of it comes from being raised to believe in Santa Claus. When it comes to believing in things with upsides and not believing in things with downsides, Santa comes out pretty well. As long as you’re good you’ll win fabulous prizes. And if you’re bad, a lump of coal. In the dead of winter, a lump of coal has definite uses, so when it comes to punishments, it could get a lot worse.

A Shot of Prose

Friday, December 4th, 2009

It’s gift-giving season. That’s mostly due to Christmas and Hanukah, but there’s certainly other holidays and birthdays and such, so if you don’t want to seem religious but do want to get in on the gift giving and getting, well, you can probably find some excuse.

One of the things that some people (people with better budgets than mine) are considering giving or getting this year are ebook readers. The most famous is probably the Kindle from, but Sony’s got some and there’s the Nook from Barnes and Noble, so competition in this space is really starting to heat up. God and I were talking about these devices and about their various pros and cons. You know, things like books never need charging but ebooks are smaller and lighter. Paper books never come with Digital Restrictions Management, but with ebooks you never have to hunt up something to use as a bookmark. That sort of thing.

Then I brought up one complaint that I’ve heard over and over again. The whole, look, feel, and smell thing. A lot of book lovers wax almost poetic about how they love the feel of a book, the crispness of the pages, the crinkle of the paper, and even the smell of the decomposing binding glue. That, to a lot of them, is part of the experience. Words just aren’t enough, apparently.

So when I brought all this up and told it to God, he didn’t hesitate, he told me that people complaining about ebooks by talking about how much they like the feel and smell of real books, is like junkies talking about how much they like syringes. Maybe they don’t like getting stuck, but there is something to be said for having rituals.