Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas 2018

As a child I invariably arose from my bed on Christmas morning no later than 3:00 am.  Sometimes even earlier.  I may have awoken my sister at the same time.  In either case I tip-toed down the stairs to see what was under the Christmas tree. Once I recall having found a model wind-up German race car which I immediately took into the kitchen and propelled around the linoleum floor.  The car was a silver coloured landau with a rubber snout. I believe it was particularly well made.

What preoccupied me this Christmas morning - some sixty years later - was neither a Christmas tree nor a toy car but rather an old joke I was told by a friend years ago. For whatever reason as I lay in bed contemplating my past and the future, I thought of the joke.  Two cows are standing in a field, talking.  One says to the other, "Are you concerned about Mad Cow Disease?" "No", replies the other.  "Why not?", asks the first.  "Because", he says, "I'm a helicopter!"

I thought of another lurid joke as well but conventionally accepted standards of behaviour prohibit me from repeating it here - though it's a really good one!

Still lying in bed and after restating those two jokes several times - and laughing out loud - I also reflected on the State of the Universe. This Christmas - as I suppose for many Christmases in the past - I have been momentarily consumed by the habit of some to send annual summaries of their ineffable exploits. What distresses me about the shabby spoor is that most often - indeed virtually invariably - the communications are like public broadcasts, sent en masse to "undisclosed recipients" (assuming the current vernacular is email); or, they're like printed missives, door-to-door flyers addressed to "Dear Friends". I find it hard to know what to do with such intelligence.  There is certainly no obvious intention within the compendium to relate the accounted affairs to anything in common with me.  At best it is an uninvited autobiography about someone in whom I usually haven't any compelling interest, at least of that orbit. Naturally such curmudgeonly response on my part is the last detail I propose to share with the sender; but otherwise I am at a loss how to respond without being positively mundane or oleaginous. I find myself disturbed by the writer's necessity to relate the unsolicited information in such an impersonal way particularly where its scope is directed to a wide audience clearly exceeding the intimacy of friendship.

All of which is to say that we're on our own when it comes to making our way in life. There's no point getting upset about what other people say or do - or what they don't say or don't do. Indeed there is very little about what even I do or don't do that matters a great deal - unless as I say, it succeeds to fulfill some indescribable ambition or preference. Assessing one's activities or productions as either useful or complimentary is a dead end. All that I have "accomplished" in life is little more than accommodation of underlying appetites and desires - which isn't to say they are worthless or shallow, but rather that they are motivated by taste and proclivity. Hunkering down on these fancies avoids a lot of complication.

Last evening - Christmas Eve - my sister telephoned and shared with us the on-going familial enterprises (mostly surrounding congregations and meals). Unquestionably we are remote and distanced from these matters, not only because we haven't children of our own but also because we're in another country far from so-called home territory. Increasingly it becomes a challenge to identify home territory when maintaining an equal split of six-months between each perch, especially now that we've set up similar financial arrangements on both sides of the border (credit cards, debit cards and bank accounts). The critical preservation of "less than 180 days" does little to broaden the practical segregation or alliances.

The advantage of being a vagabond is that it invites being a wayfarer almost anywhere. This however is a benefit of limited utility. No matter how footloose one pretends to be, eventually there are preferences which surmount the knockabout spirit. Whether you're drawn to the South Pacific, Asia or the Gulf of Mexico, there are important and often instinctive elements which ultimately insinuate the decision. More and more I relent to my native lack of novelty, partly because I am tired of learning new tricks - but mostly because I haven't the vigour. On the other hand this isn't a complete defeat because the reality remains that "there ain't no ship to take you away from yourself, you travel the suburbs of your own mind".  Perhaps this is a shallow excuse for avoiding change but I am also convinced that there is only so far you can go before you run into yourself again.

This morning we had homemade oatmeal for breakfast, followed by eggs, Virginia ham slices, American cheese and bacon.  We watched and listened to recordings of Christmas carols sung by Jessye Norman, Placido Domingo, Helmut Lotti and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I was entranced as well by the marvellous instruments - an enormous pipe organ, brass horns, silver French horns and violins. There were images of stained glass windows and the architectural wonders of massive stone cathedrals.

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