CAMDEN, S.C. -- When my wickedly witty father wanted to insult someone, he’d say, “I have two words for you -- and they’re not “Merry Christmas.”
At least this is what he thought he might say because I don’t think he ever insulted anyone. Even in private, he spoke only favorably of others, which impressed me as a young girl. I liked that he expressed admiration for others’ better qualities -- their intelligence, humor, honor, dignity, generosity, grace, erudition, and other attributes of the sort.
His wit -- usually deadpan and dry -- wasn’t for sissies, to borrow from his vernacular. His touch was light but his cut deep and true. My older brother and I became expert at the parry and the three of us spent many a night, often around Christmastime, galloping through gales of laughter and reveling in the rapport that attaches to those who’ve gazed upon the landscape of humankind’s collective consciousness and reached the same wordless conclusion.
Popsie, as I called our father, would simply smile, point to the heavens and lift his brow. Translation: It’s a joke.
Meaning, God’s playing one on us. While we humans hustle to and fro making plans and promises, vexing over life’s tribulations, most of which we create for ourselves, God wanders the clouds plucking raindrops for his soup, waiting.
One day, the creator of infinity must imagine that his most-dubious progeny eventually will recognize that meaning won’t be found in wars or profits, in sporting victories or headboard notches, or among the other trophies, trinkets and totems we collect to deflect the possibility that we are only nothings after all.
Religion, mostly, has filled the void of unknowing. If one looks closely, one sees the rituals, symbols, icons as the motions of a people ordering their anxieties much as obsessive compulsive people do. Nothing wrong with that. The mind -- or at least my mind -- can only get so far before it hits the void of the inconceivable and, therefore, the unknowable. You can either take a pill and hire a shrink or accept on faith that there’s something more. As a disciple of preparedness, I do both.
Because I was raised a Christian, Christmas is what I do.
If Jesus wasn’t precisely the literal Son of God -- I’m very comfortable with metaphor, parables, symbolism and, frankly, not knowing -- then he was certainly God incarnate in that he embodied the eternal truths that make life bearable.
His essential message was so simple: Love.