Credits: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
'Tis not the season to be sarcastic. I'm still hoping Santa will bring one of those "National Sarcasm Society: Like we need your support" T-shirts. But I'm not writing a satirical list of dream gifts for politicians or anything like that. There is a time to demolish rubbish and a time to stop and breathe deeply and smell the roses or, in this case the pine needles, and be glad we have noses.
Oh sure, they're sometimes inconvenient. They run. They sneeze. They get bonked. We think ours is too big, too small, too crooked, too straight, or covered with a fine network of varicose veins we struggle to hide with makeup before appearing on TV, for instance. But if yours was gone you'd miss it.
The same is true of life. I don't spend much time quoting Thoreau but he was right that the world is "more wonderful than convenient". But as Porky Pine says in Pogo: "The best break anybody ever gets is bein' alive in the first place. An' you don't unnnerstan' what a perfect deal it is until you realizes that you ain't gone be stuck with it forever, either."
Christmas has many uses, from celebrating the birth of Jesus to getting great stuff. I was going to add "to annoying the politically correct" but, again, I'm trying to avoid that sort of sentiment for at least a few days. In my humble opinion (please withhold sarcastic comments until Boxing Day) a key purpose of Christmas is to take a break from our worse selves and try, briefly, to be as nice to people as we can manage because we realize we are luckier than we could ever deserve just to be alive.
Take running for the bus ... please. I hate how much time I spend rushing around because the guy who wears my suits can't manage his time better. But what if I couldn't run because my legs didn't work, or my heart wouldn't stand the strain? I'd wish I was running for the bus, savouring the cool splash of the slush on my suit pants only to find I'd misread the schedule and it went by three minutes earlier. How I would laugh. So why not now? Especially when you reflect that, in the middle of remaking the world yet again because it didn't measure up to his lofty standards, John Maynard Keynes sprinted for a train and fell down dead. Be happy every time you get on alive.
Yeah. Life's great. Even the stuff you think you hate like, say, the commercialization of Christmas. OK, the holiday doesn't come from a store. But even the bagging of loot should not be regarded with an entirely jaundiced eye.
Life being what it is, we need stuff. And "St. Nick" apparently started as Nicholas, bishop of Myra, a pious and wealthy man who once leaned in a poor man's window to drop gold into his daughters' stockings so they would not have to become prostitutes. Mere money indeed. Why should it not be cause for joy that, once a year, people who actually like us do their best to give us things we don't even realize we need that will make us happier?
As for stockings, and legs that rush or plod through slush, G.K. Chesterton as so often said it best: "Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth?"
I do not suggest we spend all our time sitting around being amazed that we're alive. We are called to plunge into life not stand around staring at it. But we do need to stop periodically and be glad the dang thing exist and that we have it. Many do not who deserve it and I'll take a pine tree over a pine box any day.
So breathe deeply and think to yourself "Aaaah, oxygen. Where would we be without it?" It's a wonderful gas.