Smells Like Christmas Spirit
My father would have turned 90 years old tomorrow. He died of lung cancer in 1989, but I still miss him a lot. Dad never talked much, but when he did speak it was like E.F. Hutton - everybody listened, because what he said was always worth hearing.
Dad was a kind and gentle man, but he was never the wisecracking type. Neither was my Mom, so I always wondered how I got the way I am. It was only later in his life that Dad admitted to being sent to the principal's office in high school for playing a practical joke on somebody. So I guess the acorn really doesn't fall too far from the tree.
I always thought Dad got ripped off, having his birthday on Christmas Eve. People tended to give him one gift for both occasions. He claimed not to be upset by it, and he was probably telling the truth - as an adult. But it had to be tough as a kid. Of course back in those days they barely had enough money for food, so presents weren't the big deal they are today.
My parents both died in 1989, and I often wonder what they would have said about all the stuff they missed, like the Berlin Wall falling, the Clintons, terrorism, 9/11, and all the other nonsense we've been dealing with for the past 16 years. I thought about them again tonight as I was picking up some groceries. The clerk wished me "Merry Christmas" as she handed me my change, and I responded in kind. Then as I rolled my cart away, the clerk said to the clerk in the next lane "I said 'Merry Christmas' again - somebody will get mad at me if I keep that up."
My parents would have thought this completely insane. What kind of world are we living in when somebody can get mad at you for wishing them "Merry Christmas"? Okay, if you walked into a synogogue and did it, that might get you asked to leave. But barring such stupidity, what's wrong with saying "Merry Christmas"? Shouldn't freedom of religion extend to Christians, too? They are the majority religion in the United States, which was founded by Christians.
Before anybody asks, I've never been a member of any organized religious group. My parents were raised Lutheran, but by the time I came along Dad had become sick of church politics and stopped attending. I was never baptised or confirmed. Mom read bible stories to me when I was little, but they never really took, except as philosophy. If forced to state my "outlook", I say that I'm a Buddhist Libertarian. I'm not a member of any Buddhist temple or the Libertarian Party, but those are the groups with whom I most agree, at least from the standpoint of philosophy.
That said, Christian philosophy has something to teach the world, too. The same can be said for every religion I've read about. The problem seems to be people who take their religion too seriously. That seems to be especially true of Athiests today. Yes, athiesm is a religion - the central tenet of which is the nonexistence of god. And today's athiests are just as devout in their beliefs as the members of any other religion.
But the real problem with religion, as I see it, is the lack of a sense of humor in devoutly religious people. The open minded will find a humorous side to nearly everything that happens. The devoutly close-minded will take offense to anything or anyone who doesn't believe exactly what they believe.
Is there any real difference between these three people?
1) The devout Muslim who believes that infidels are offensive.
2) The devout Christian who believes that abortion doctors are offensive.
3) The devout Athiest who believes that public displays of the Ten Commandments are offensive.
None of these three is likely to have any sense of humor about anything involving their religion. It's always "their way or the highway". You can't talk to these people. Eventually you just stop trying. But ignoring their blather makes them more angry and less likely to see other points of view.
It's been my experience that you can't convince somebody to see things your way unless and until you're willing to try and see things their way first. You don't have to agree with the other person, but it helps to be able to see where they're coming from. It also helps to have a sense of humor, particularly when dealing with people who don't.
This time of year is important to everyone. Call it what you will - the Solstice, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, or whatever. It's a time to reflect on the past year, look forward to the year to come, and mostly to enjoy the moment, as well as our friends and family.
So Happy Birthday, Dad! And Merry Christmas to everyone. Enjoy the spirit of the season as you will.
T-Shirt of the Moment:
Four Calling Birds