Sunday, December 23, 2007

A very, very Happy Merry to All

Two songs and three poems to bring you joy.

I’ve been sorting through my thoughts about Christmas. They turn out to be many and varied. There are times when I would like to take Santa Claus out and lynch him, but that it is pretty hard to do when you’re dealing with a mythical figure.

However when I found myself in the company of the likes of Oliver Cromwell, I changed my mind. A solid Puritan called Philip Stubbs, in The Anatomie of Abuses (late 1500’s), lists the nefarious activities he associates with Christmas: “More mischief is that time committed than in all the year besides ... What dicing and carding, what eating and drinking, what banqueting and feasting is then used ... to the great dishonour of God and the impoverishing of the realm.” Toss in dancing, singing plus few innocent pleasures, and that would include most of the things that I really enjoy about the season.

Perhaps I just celebrate Winter Solstice like a good pagan.

Perhaps too the roots my ambivalence about Christmas go deeper. When I was in high school, I gave a speech that flopped. My text was “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” I did not know then, and still now struggle with adequate words to express, the magic of generosity that Mr. Claus represents. I am afraid that I have to agree with those who “… have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see.” There is an underlying sentimentality that I distrust.

But mostly for the kids’ sake, I declare that it is far too early to lay the fat guy to rest. Generosity is a difficult virtue to get your arms around. Besides I have heard rumors that the Dalai Lama has made him a Yiddam, that is the protector deity of Buddhism in America. Santa Claus is now some kind of Buddhist god. Banish any thoughts of lynching.

Proof of Santa's divinity? Most religious figures, prophets, and gods, in our times are the subject of controversy. Here is photo of a real protest over conflicting claims to Santa’s legal address, or country of origin.

Youth protest outside the Finnish Embassy over that country's claim Santa Claus lives there. (Everyone knows SC lives in Canada).

Two Songs

A friend Bill Krumbein started to turn the tide in favor of Mr. Claus and all he stands for when he, Krumbein being a true Santa, sent this really wonderful song from the 50’s by the Drifters. Click on the album cover and you will smile too (or I hope so).

For an inexplicable reason, my mind then drifted off the warmest Christmas I ever spent, 1994 in Honolulu. The locals play this wonderful song, Mele Kalikimaka, that Bing Crosby put on the flip side of White Christmas. The man who wrote it, Robert Alexander Anderson, was still alive when I lived on O’ahu. There were reports in the newspaper when he was seen playing golf, around Christmas time, while in his 90’s. Reminds me of my own father. Go Dad!

And three poems
I went surfing, typing into Google search several of my favorite poets’ names, comma, “Christmas.” I re-read A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.

“One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.”
I was really struck when I read Thomas’ interlocutor’s question: "Were there Uncles like in our house?" Go to my blog by clicking the image, and read this section.

Richard Wilbur writes a very workman-like and orthodox, A Christmas Hymn, that reminds me a bit of Elliot, though rather stiff for my taste. My taste is not Everyman’s, so I include it. There is a Mystery associated with Christmas that cannot be ignored!

And finally, if you’ve read thus far, you will probably enjoy W.H. Auden’s Christmas Oratorio. He hits the nail in the head.

I can never read too much Auden. And there is an enormous amount to read. And even though Christmas is not the time for academic lectures, but for anyone who thinks that I have perhaps gone overboard about Auden, I refer you to Adam Gopnik’s article in the New Yorker: The Double Man, Why Auden is an indispensable poet of our time.

Each day I appreciate more and more that Life itself is a gift. I wish you all, a very, very happy merry.