This has been a hellish year for just about everyone, and the last thing we need during this holiday season are the swarms of grinches who appear with monotonous regularity every Christmas trying to put a damper on Yuletide excess. If there was ever a time for excess, this is it, and to those grim Puritans advocating less, we say “More is better.” We’ve had enough belt-tightening. enough abstinence, enough grim contemplation of the harsh realities of life. We need joy, and lots of it.
What we don’t need is any more backsass from our elevators.
Okay. My office building — or rather, the building where The Daily Cannibal has its offices, just installed new elevators, which, among other essential improvements, like doors that won’t close, buttons that don’t work and walls that look like a high-security airlock, include now a small video monitor constantly flashing “news” clips with helpful data like flight delays and smug little hints about how to live your life.
What set me off was an admonition from some finger-wagging ninny that, this holiday season, we should “eliminate sugars from your diet. Instead of glazing your holiday ham with molasses or maple syrup, try using a natural sweetener or add garnishes of fresh fruit instead.”
Well, drop dead. It’s Christmas! I want my slice of sugar-glazed ham, and my toothache-inducing slab of pecan pie, and my buttercream-frosted yule log. I want candied sweet potatoes, Hershey’s Kisses in red and green tinfoil, candy canes, caramel popcorn, candy apples and all the rest of the dietary nightmares that the season can supply. I’ve had a whole year of belt-tightening, doing without, cutting this and giving up that, and all the rest of the irritating restrictions that an aging body and a contracting economy enforce. And I need a break.
According to a certain book, about two thousand years ago, an angel appeared to some nomad herdsman contemplating a moonlit desert. These folks had a pretty hard life — not much in the way of entertainment, far too much of crippling disease, grinding poverty and violent death. They ate local — when they could eat at all — because they had no damn choice. And when an unearthly being with beating wings suddenly materialized in the night sky, one might forgive them for being startled, as they were largely unfamiliar with displays of this nature.
But the angel said: “Fear not — for I bring you glad tidings of great joy.”
Well, that’s what the book says.
Although our nature is not in any way angelic, and no one would consider us Christian, we are darned if we will let that stand in the way of having a Merry Christmas. Christmas is for everyone who wants it — who wants a brief respite from the dreariness of headlines and the onslaught of commerce; the inevitability of declines and falls after booms and “irrational exuberance,” and the battering of experience, the grinding of faction and the steady drip drip drip of necessity and its efforts to erode our souls. So we are right into the notion of angels heralding glad tidings; we have the same message.
Yes, this has been a hard year, and this hard year comes on the heels of others harsh enough in their own right. Many suffer, and prospects for improvement, far from drawing nigh, seem to grow more elusive instead. And those tasked with solving the nation’s problems seem intent only on adding to them.
We’ve survived worse. The glad tidings are that although most of us are not quite as prosperous as we once were, and some of us have foundered, for most people, life is still pretty good. This in spite of a prolonged slump, serial catastrophes in the global economy, and a ruling class that demonstrates nothing quite so well as its own lust for survival at all costs.
Well, survival is not to be sneezed at, not in this day and age. And when you find yourself still standing after a rain of artillery shells, what the hell. Celebrate.
This is not an exhortation to indulge in wild excess, or thoughtless selfishness — quite the contrary. Celebration does not require grotesque consumption, it just demands the right state of mind — a “pack up your troubles in your old kit bag” kind of abandonment that lets us focus on brightness and beauty instead of gloom and the nasty particulars of modern venality. It asks for hope, and for a lightness of spirit. And a modicum of excess during celebration is not entirely without merit, actually.
And speaking of spirit, get into it. It really is more blessed to give than receive, and the easiest thing for anyone to give anybody else is kindness. Right now, everybody needs a break. Give them one. This is the time of year for it. The more joy you can inject into the mix, the more you will ineluctably reap. Here, excess is to be encouraged.
As one of our all-time favorite blithe spirits put it, far better than we do here:
So that’s it. At least for a few weeks, let’s interrupt the search for scapegoats, the carping, the whining, the all-around foul mood we find ourselves plunged into by relentless uninterrupted bulletins of fresh disaster with a truce. Let the hostilities cease for a while.
That’s our holiday wish to all of you. Once we’re safely past New Year’s Day, we can always pick up our cudgels, power up our klaxons and resume the carnage. But for now — peace on earth; good will to all.
Let the holidays begin. Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah. Joyeux Noel. Whatever phrase stirs your soul and revives those very, very special memories of very, very special times with very, very special people. Because we need a little Christmas, right this very minute, and we are here to tell you — this year, you’ve earned it.
Bless us all, every one.