‘Tis the season to believe again in miracles, in what human reason and logic says cannot be. As I’m writing this it occurs to me that we accept the possibility of the horrific when it defies reason and logic, far more readily than we accept good things. We imagine all kinds of things going wrong with confidence and conviction, from not “getting the girl” to not being able to utilizing our talents. “Who do we think we are?” we’re told. I think it starts when we’re forced to stop believing in concepts like Santa Claus, or similar such miracle workers in other cultures and societies, icons of goodness.
By the time we’re five, or seven as the young man said in a recent film I saw, we “know that Santa Claus isn’t real”. No one man, wide of girth as he is, could get down even one chimney let alone all the ones on the planet, in just one night! And how could we be so stupid as to believe such a character could defy gravity by flying through the sky on a laden sleigh led by wingless creatures? We’re far too intelligent for that.
And yet, such defiance goes on daily, hourly even as we continue to witness the advancements made throughout our history. Countless technological advances from airplanes, to the device I’m writing on, to people surviving illnesses and injuries against all odds, to the creation of new worlds. From the Pyramids to superstar athletes and artists. The story of humankind is the story of believing in changing the norms, of walking in space. This season is in honor of one who they say actually walked on water and raised people from the dead, including himself!
So why would we have trouble with a man in a red suit, or a woman even?
Perhaps there are religious or spiritual concerns that believing in Santa makes us miss the significance of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. I was one of them, concerned about the frenzied buying and spending. But I see now it’s all about interpretation. What do we think Jesus is really about? Or Santa for that matter. Is it just about the stuff? I don’t think so. I think the “stuff” is an adult obsession. I think the little ones are on to something far more important until adults close that door. They’re on to the fact that real life depends on tapping into the unseen, the invisible, the unknown. The wondrous! Every discoverer can attest to that. Believing in breaking down so-called limits. We can’t count the people who’ve done that, from world explorers, scientists, leaders of countries, as well as one the world mourns and celebrates this season, Nelson Mandela.
Whether it’s a Santa, a Jesus, or any other figure, we need to hold on to what I think is our native ability to perceive beyond the five material senses, to believe, to grasp the reality of invisible good. Every society has its icons to help us with that, to help us believe in wonder, in blessedness, in goodness, and not their opposites. To stay attuned to that magic. It’s what pushes those young people who defy their parents and other authority figures to make something real they probably aren’t fully understanding. Why do we think Harry Potter has been so successful? Or Wonder Woman, and Superman. Because behind all the physical symbolism, gymnastics, pyrotechnics, and imagery was that force working for good, and those who believed in it. A miracle is defined as “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws…” It’s a welcome event so I’m thinking it has to be for good, not just manipulating matter for whatever. Our miracle workers and believers are changers of society for the greater good, for more freedom.
I imagine I’ll continue to rethink the season, about how to awaken the little child in each of us, how to honor the child in more young people to encourage them to visualize a world different from the one they see. Jesus was for me more than a moral agent for the material world, he was a defier of convention, of gravity and physics, of the physical, material world itself. For the non-religious, I can see Santa as a secular “helper,” a guide to help us think outside our little boxes.
Christmas for me has no meaning without the possibility of magic, of miracles, in whatever garb. There’s wonder all around us, but mainly within us, if we just close our eyes and ears, and listen. And believe.