The Hollow Christmas

Wenton L. Davis

Somehow, the year 2016 has graced, or cursed, us.  I suppose it depends on where you sit, politically.  Most people seem to feel either blessed or insulted by the Trump vs. Clinton election.  Every election, I seem to find myself, like so many of you, wondering if the campaigning might not better be thought of as the quad-annual "Celebration of Fools."  And every four years, we all find ourselves secretly fearing, "who is the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows it." (Ben Kenobi, long time ago, far far away) And I have to admit to a certain hollow feeling about the whole holiday season, as you shall quickly discover:

It is easy to point fingers at our politicians and condemn them for failing us, and certainly deservedly so.  However, it would be prophetic of Kenobi for any of us to believe that our problems can be passed away to the misguided stumblings of men (and women) who blindly mistake their own desires as the wishes of the people they claim to represent.  Perhaps we should take a few moments daring deeply upon a mirror and contemplating where the real blames should lie.

Personally, I have found 2016 to have been devastating.  Continued legal issues surrounding 2012's "covered" medical expenses turned out to be less "covered" than expected.  The lawyers finally did find a way to balance their books without another pound of my flesh, but it locked me into that minority group of people who simply suffered Obamacare.  And while I may still only be part of that minority, make no mistake, what I care about is the financial devastation that has greeted me this year, as a result.

Meanwhile, my primary source of income for the past nearly seven years has all but evaporated.  I still manage pittance, but only enough to force me to return to teaching.  Teaching has brought a mixture of good and bad, and although it is yet too early to tell whether the good outweighs the bad, if pressured to choose, I would say that the choice to return was made in a near-panic, fed by the flood of fore-mentioned financial greetings, and that this choice was ill-advised, but it remains the choice that was made.

For those of you who do not know, or who simply forgot, last years Christmas card were largely my musings around "A Christmas Kitty where I shared my observations of a young boy upset over not getting the kitten he wanted so much.  ...and in fact, I still hope the he found some way to get the furry friend he wanted so deeply.  But this year, I found myself in a battle to keep Ulurnie, my dear kitty.  Several large lumps were discovered in her abdomen, and the vet wasted no time in stressing how frightening the size of one in particular was.  Three surgeries later, an ultrasound, a set of X-rays, and a cat-scan (sorry, couldn't resist that one) later, and she is not only doing well, but she had become as youthful and playful as ever! That is, unfortunately, also true at 3 A.M.! Brrromp, brrromp, brrromp up and down the hallway!

But I'm not the only one who has found the past year to be unkind.  A number of my friends have suffered losses; some of them have been worse than anything I would try to claim.  One friend lost her mother, my mother has lost a cousin, my father has lost an uncle, and one friend has lost a son.  There are many other, similar stories out there, all with different details and different names, but the end results are the same.

Still.... something is missing.  I can't point to any one "tragedy" that anyone in my life has suffered this year with the ability to say (with any measure of assuredness), "THAT is the culprit. THAT is the source of the misery of this year."  I have to believe we would all like to find such a point of blame.  But that point is never there; and as mere human beings, we tend to pick out one point, however fallacious, and blame it.  Often, that one point is a single person who has let us down in some way.

And this is where I find myself, at the end of this year; pointlessly pointing all all directions to find a single place to lay the blame for the misery I've observed.  But it isn't there.  There is on one thing - no person - no group - no mistake - that I can point to and say, "this is your fault."  So where does the blame belong?

This is where the particularly religious devout will leap unto the air exclaiming, "God has a plan!" This becomes my moment of incredulous chucking.  Each person has the right to discount problems in their lives by passing the blame to a ubiquitous "God's Will," but I find it hard to believe that the "Creator of All" could have a "plan" which carries such a bizarre cocktail of benevolence and malevolence at the same time.  It seems a convenient excuse to shut our eyes and walk away from things we don't like, never facing the challenges life can bring.

With equal minimalistic thought, comes the familiar, "shit happens."  Yes, I suppose that is true.  But once again, I find it feeble-minded of us to attempt to hand of difficulties as if the don't matter.

Certainly, bad things are going to happen.  These are not the results of a capricious "God's Will," and often, they are not really results of ill-meaning passers-by.  Things are going to happen because our wills, not God's, are what typically drive each of us in our actions and decisions.  I would be beyond contemptible if I were to try to convince you all that I have made decisions that always placed other people's wishes before my own.  (Mind you - I do try to at least keep the wishes of others and the impact on others in mind.)  But we all manage to make mistakes, and let's face it - we all have moments where we make the choice to be greedy and put ourselves first.

So keeping our mortal selfishness in mind, ask yourself, "Do I put more into the lives of the people around me than I take out?"  And while contemplating that, consider also that all actions come with a cost.  What is given from one is taken from another.

Everything we do is a matter of give and take.  We give to our jobs so we can take home a paycheck.  We give to one friend, but not another.  We give; we take.  Where does it balance?

It doesn't balance.  It can't.  It comes to rest at some state of equilibrium, which the scientists out there would call "balance," but is this balancing point truly found when give=take, or is it found as a constantly changing flow of, "let's call it good..... for now?"  But doesn't even that phrase imply (by using "good") that it is not balanced? Doesn't that imply that someone has gained?

So, is it then possible that our new balance point can still be "good?" After all, if something has been given, something must have been taken, right?

That does, still presuppose that we are all hollow, empty beings who are only capable of give and take.  It draws from the preconception that give=take=balance only if we are not capable of creating something, ourselves.  For example, a friend of mine recently sent me a beautiful piece of art; a brass page with the picture of a couple of young raccoons playing on a branch.  It is a very beautiful picture which she drew, herself.  She bought the materials, and spent more time on it than I can even imagine - and for no reason at all, she sent it to me.  I treasure this gift, and I still wonder how to repay her for it.  So what did she spend? Hours? Hryvnia? (Look it up.) She created something far more beautiful and precious than I would spend money on.  I doubt I could afford anything like it.  And then she sent it to me.  Where is the "balance" now? Does she regret sending it to me? I certainly had a great deal of gain as you may have noticed.  But is there balance, or did she create something in such a way that there can never again be a true give=receive balance? Clearly the latter.

Good, bad, give, take, balance, imbalance.  Where does it start? Where does it end? Does it end? After such a difficult year for so many of us, can it ever end?

It ends, dear family and friends, when we end.... when we reach the end of our days.  And what is "winning?" Is it true that, "he who has the most toys, wins?" I truly hope not! (Else many of us might as well give up and quit playing anyway.) I would submit that "(s)he with the most given, wins." Those of us who understand this imbalance of give and take and view the concept without contempt or greed are the ones who win with the most fulfilling lives.

Which then brings me to a point of crisis.  Increasingly over the years, I hear that "Christmas is for the children."  And sadly, although hardly unexpectedly, these words come from people in my life whom are trying to get the most toys, give the least for them, and create nothing.  In fact, I think it fair to say that many of them create misery in the lives of other people.

A quick tour through the more religious people in my live would be certain to point out that we should then, "become more like children."

Have you seen today's "children?" They are more greedy and self-entitled than most of us have ever seen!

Instead, perhaps we should all stop acting like children.  Stop thinking that we win because we took the most toys from the other children.  Start thinking that we win because the people around us are better because of what we created for them.

I don't have to be able to hear to know that a lot of people just "harumpf"-ed out there.  That is fine - they are welcome to chase their "children's-only Christmas;" their hollow Christmas.  But for me, I believe this is where we can point, to lay all that blame for the past year.  We need to learn to create.  Not to take Christmas from Children, but to learn to make Christmas be for everyone again.... children, parents, family and friends.  We all need to learn to put out hollow Christmases behind us and create a new, joyous, and celebrational Christmas.

Likely this will never happen.  The new year will come; roughly half the population will mourn while the other half celebrates a new president.  Most of us will age another year, but not all.  and by the end of the year, we will once again be flooded by complaints that Christmas songs are being played earlier every year, and that contemptuous claim that Christmas is not for adults, or that Christmas is just commercialized over-spending.  But somewhere... perhaps you.... will take a moment to make a new choice - to win by creating, and to take (dare I suggest, "earn") some part of Christmas you find to be simply your own?