Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Yes, Virginia

I am reprinting this classic letter to a newspaper editor by an eight-year-old girl and the quick, unsigned editorial response on Sept. 21, 1897 because of its timeliness but also because it addresses whimsy and faith, concepts I hadn't considered before in relation to this article. There is a Santa Claus because of childlike faith in "the supernal beauty and glory beyond" this mortal veil.

Very relevant. Merry Christmas all year around.

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

See more at:
- Newseum
- Wikipedia

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Star Wars: My Response

OK, so I just saw "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" with my family and it left me flat. I'm sorry to break from the crowd but I have been watching this series since 1977 and this one was so filled with logic gaps, unexplainable behaviors, predictability, impossibly bad shooting (keep it up, stormtroopers!), merchandising tie-ins and plot-distracting easy-outs that I was detached the whole time. The only character that reached me, oddly enough, was Max Von Sydow. Good acting, great effects, good music, that was it. I didn't even feel nostalgic.

Sorry, guys. Congrats, Disney. Great effort, exceptional marketing, making tons of money. A good popcorn flick.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

My Precious Christmas Gift

My wife just gave me the one of the most precious gifts I have ever received. It came at great cost.

We were packing for a Christmas trip to see our distant family, a trip on which we could bring few things. She was presenting me a gift before the holiday so I could take it with me rather than pack the whole box.

The hopeful look in her eyes as she held the box out to me, all beautifully wrapped, was melting. It said, “Oh, I hope you like them. I got them specially for you. I love you so much!” The look was strong enough that I was taken aback.

I opened the box. Inside was a pair of slippers. Excellently made, warm, durable, good looking and versatile, I knew she had thought long and shopped hard for them.

I never wear slippers. I have two very serviceable pairs, both of which were well-meaning gifts, but they are rarely on my feet. She actually bought these to replace my flip flops, which she detests. Admittedly they were getting ragged but in my view they still had a couple of summers left in them.

I was concerned that we didn't have money for these slippers and that they represented the beginning of a Christmas which we cannot afford among people who can afford only to give little. Every gift was going to put people into debt or cause them to sacrifice.

I didn't know what to say. My wife's love language is gifts, the joy she gets out of shopping for others to find just the perfect present for them. She had bought these for me, the man she loves and spent 32 years with. Money to her was the least concern. She had always been responsible for our finances and has handled them expertly. In her eyes this gift was very wise.

I remembered her look. I hesitated. My love language is time, giving it and saving it. For me, the thought behind the gift was always more precious than the gift itself. In fact, I didn't want gifts. A heart-felt card or something very simple, even just a loving hug, was always best.

I didn't want to hurt her feelings but I had been earnest in my cautions about spending too much money. I just started a new job. We haven't been paid yet. Our finances were tight before my job ended and were much more so now. How could we afford gifts, especially slippers?

And then I was a hit with a thought: Don't I trust her?

I hesitated too long. She guessed; she knew. I remembered the hopeful look I had seen in her eyes. Now her eyes held hurt. Once again her look was melting. It now said, “You don't like them. All that time and effort and I still got you the wrong gift. I failed! You don't feel my love.”

I felt so guilty! We had not yet spoken, but volumes had been said. I knew I couldn't hide my feelings so I opened my mouth and expressed them, gently. We talked for a good while. There was hurt; there were tears. But I came away with a much better understanding of who I am and who she is. I look at Christmas stories and gifts now from the perspective of love languages and found new interpretations for them. Every viewpoint has value; most are right from a certain vantage point. I could never judge a present the same way again. Each is of equal value, cheap or expensive, appropriate or not. I would be grateful.

I learned much from this conversation. That learning was the gift she gave me. It came at great cost. But I am eternally grateful for it, as I am for my loving wife, my great friend who loves me in spite of pain.

Merry Christmas, Gorgeous. I am sorry for the pain. I love you!