Smile Politely

Have Yourself a Transcendental Xmas

If threatened with waterboarding, I might recount to you my childhood Christmas memories: going to Grandma’s house in the country, hoards of cousins, broken bits of hard candy in cut glass bowls, playing with the marble roller, the smell of a real tree, navel oranges, the reading of Bible verses and the Nativity story before opening presents in a hurricane of flying wrapping paper, snowball fights, singing carols, too much food. Yes, it was all very storybook wonderful and all 100% true.

But let us face reality. Christmas is dead. There is no more Christmas. Christmas was over long before the Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by shoppers this year. The so-called, epiphany-like “Christmas feeling” is as artificially generated as the tacky blow-up reindeer display in your neighbor’s yard, as much a product of ignorance as the Baby Jesus Prayer in Talledega Nights.

We have started to receive some of the once-traditional annual letters, stuffed into cards, mostly from older generation relatives not conversant with email. These are impersonal, usually involving clinical details about a hip operation. They are far worse than spam. I used to pretend to read the single-spaced details in these letters. Not this year.

I am not doing Christmas this year. So far, it has been a successful endeavor. I feel cleansed. Christmas is just a week away and I haven’t once even been tempted to buy presents, contact old friends, look at decorations, or cruise campus fraternity dumpsters for early-discarded trees. While shopping for groceries last week at Meijer, I did notice there was a secular Christmas song overhead. I felt nothing. It was the same hypnotic “buy something” music that gets played – and ignored – year round.

I will gladly avoid those church elders standing out in the freezing cold wearing fake beards and real bathrobes, holding unfortunate lambs, squinting into cheap spotlights, while people walk past these living Nativity scenes snickering.

A 3rd grader named Alfonso in the bilingual classroom where I sometimes teach asked me if Santa was real. He knew the answer, but he was testing me. He just wanted to watch me lie. Kids love to lie and I was not about to provide him with any more rationalization than he already gets watching the President on TV.

“Maybe Santa is your father,” I told him.

“Yeah,” he said. “But my dad doesn’t have papers.”

I wonder what Alfonso thinks about talk show hosts like Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly, who annually get all worked up about Christmas, about saying the word “Christmas,” and about all the letters to the editor wailing and moaning about the fact that people say “Holiday” instead of the magic mantra word “Christmas.” The rest of the year, the opinion poobahs and the local letter-writers demand the deportation of immigrants like Alfonso’s dad – no room in this inn, believe me – and/or suggest bombing Iran or storming Venezuela. This schizoid dissonance, honoring the Prince of Peace by name while stabbing our neighbors in the back, kind of throws the baby Jesus out with the bathwater, if you ask me

Quite possibly, there never was a thing as Christmas cheer, just like there were never any “good old days.” It all mythical, a cheap wine high that gets passed down generation to generation, everybody believing that somebody else is feeling something they are not.

Therefore, let it be resolved that we hereby replace faux Christmas cheer with a new goal of the season. I humbly submit we strive to achieve Transcendence. Salvation. Nirvana. Satori. Let’s go all out and get ourselves Enlightenment this year for Christmas. This product is not sold in stores.

What are the paths to transcendence, you well may ask?

One way may be to become invisible. William Burroughs (sometimes known as “El Hombre Invisible”) wrote several essays about how to be invisible. He gives real tips on how to walk down the street and go unseen. I’ve tried them and they actually work pretty well.

Another way is to turn 60 years old. Nobody sees you at all once you turn 60. So they tell me.

Jim Morrison of The Doors was so obsessed with spiritual transcendence, he drank himself into oblivion. His song “The Soft Parade” provides “four ways to get unraveled.” One is to sleep. One is to travel. One is to become a bandit, hiding out in the hills, perhaps a political revolutionary. And the fourth, according to the song, is trangressive sex, to love your neighbor till “his wife gets home.” Ahem.

Much easier than Morrison’s prescriptions would be to practice Transcendental Meditation as taught by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It only takes about half an hour a day for thirty years or so and, according to practitioners like filmmaker David Lynch, it works!

None of these things are likely to happen for you before December 25, though, so I have my own suggestion. I suggest a new method for a perfect Transcendental Christmas, the sure-fire way to turn your world upside down.

Don’t give gifts to people. Give apologies instead.

They say that a lot of doctors could avoid malpractice suits if they would just apologize for mistakes. People want apologies more than settlements. Mormons could give the gift of hope and love – no greater gift than that! – by apologizing for sponsoring Proposition 8.

George Ryan apologized. Sure, he wants out of prison, but it’s not doing anybody any good keeping him there. Blagojevich should apologize and take his lumps. It would astonish everyone. George Bush should apologize before he leaves office. “Give me your tired and your poor,” he should say. “Throw your shoes at me. I’m terribly sorry.” Talk about a Christmas miracle.

The other gift we can give is to accept apologies! That is so much better than a new blender.

I’m sure this is the best idea since Black Friday. Maybe it won’t save the economy, but that’s supposedly not what the season is about anyway. Apologize and accept all apologies.

‘Tis the season to be sorry. I almost feel like singing. Fa la la la la, la la la la!

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