As I sit today pondering the delights of the holiday I cannot help but wonder if Christmas and the other solstice holidays, with their alleged emphasis on “peace on earth, good will towards men” do not concentrate all that good will into one small portion of the year, leaving us free to be our normal mean spirited selves the rest of the year. I don’t man to go all Grinch on everyone here but it does seem to me that we all too often assign good behavior to particular holidays, using that as an excuse to behave poorly the remainder of the time.
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire is a wonderful image, full of the promise of loving our neighbors, but do our busy lives compartmentalize these positive opportunities into compact segments, much as we do with most of the other things we do with our lives, giving way to a sort of culturally acceptable schizophrenia; work now, then the drive home, then play with the kids, then sleep, then back to work, ad infinitum. Doesn’t it appear sometimes that we are radically different people depending on the circumstance; kind and loving here, cruel and heartless there. We shift back and forth into these becomings easily, never giving a thought to the fragmentation of our existence.
So we cram all of our feelings of gracious community and empathy into these short, swift, preordained periods of time and then return to our thoughtless striving for financial glory and social oneupsmanship the remainder of our fractured lives. That conservative Uncle of yours gets the benefit of the doubt over turkey and all the trimmings, at least as long as it takes to unwrap the presents, and then its back to reviling him as a monster. We hold off our criticism about Cousin Mary’s unfortunate divorce until well past dessert, after the tryptophan wears off and we get off the couch looking for someone to dominate once again.
Perhaps this is a harsh assessment. Maybe the ghost of Scrooge has descended upon me in a fit of bah humbuggery. I just wish everyone would treat everyone else with the same loving kindness and forgiveness they muster up every Christmas day for the other 364 days of the year.
Things might be better all around.