Christmas Time

Christmas tree lights isoWhen I was a kid, I used to believe in Santa. Now that I have grown up, I don’t anymore, but I still want to. Because now I need to make up the stories that back then I took for granted. Otherwise the world becomes too small and narrow, too snowless. 

We need Christmas because we need to ask ourselves whether it’s become a commercial holiday, an excuse to go on a gift-buying spree.


We need to worry about buying gifts for people we want to buy gifts for.


We need to expect snow, to long for it, to live without it when it doesn’t come.


We need to drape lights and garlands around our houses and plug them in so they will glow bright in the night.


We need to brace ourselves for family relations and put up with the odd family dinner.


We need to believe that there is something we need to believe in other than the usual, the ordinary, the normal.


And we need to ask ourselves whether we should really cut a tree to hang globes and garlands from its branches, or settle for a fake plastic tree.


I’m not sure I understand the “merry” part in Merry Christmas.


But Christmas brings a change of mood.  It warms up people’s spirits.


We may not believe in Christmas, but then the good thing about Christmas is that it happens anyway every year, whether it snows or not.


Christmas is a whimsy certainty, and that makes it more than bearable, it makes it welcome.

In Praise of Gift Wrapping

I enjoy wrapping and unwrapping gifts, and I especially enjoy watching unwrapped gifts lie untouched on the desk or under the Christmas tree, teasing my curiosity. 

Who can say which gifts are the most precious? Those we receive unexpectedly? Those that come from afar? Those that need a long time to reach us, and for which we wait with a certain unease, not knowing whether they will be here today or tomorrow?


Or maybe the gifts we give ourselves? But then we never wrap those. The best-wrapped gifts always tend to come from others.


Over the years I have received many wonderful gifts. Some I longed for. Others came unexpectedly. I have received old books, more than a hundred years old. I have received Egyptian tarot cards. I have received an eyelash in a tiny box, courageously plucked after many tries. I have received journals and wooden pencils, nudges to write and rewrite my life anew.


I have also given gifts which I like to think were special. Crankshaft music boxes that never stopped playing. Rainbow boxes filled with photographs and candy. Soap ducks which must have seen a thing or two. Watches whose careful ticking bounded in a rounded frame the importance of time and chained it in hours.


Because I enjoy unwrapping gifts so much, I always try to wrap my gifts well. Gift wrapping is, to some extent, like putting on good clothes for a special occasion. Once it is removed, it makes the naked sentiment within all the more beautiful.


Sometimes I spend a ridiculous amount of time wrapping a gift and at the end I’m still not happy with the result and wrap it again some other way.


Alongside old gifts I treasure, I keep in a drawer of my nightstand bits of wrapping from gifts I particularly liked. In the wrapping I find at least as much sentiment as in the gift itself. It amuses me when someone goes over the top and wraps the thing so well that I’m baffled as to how to proceed to open it without tearing out the wrapping.


If every gift is a story, then the wrapping may not be the plot or the character, but it surely is a fine description, one that’s worth reading and rereading. To take the time to wrap a gift well is a noble thing indeed, one that only good spirited people can accomplish. People who may not have time but who nevertheless find it. People who do not do only things that they have to, but also things that they want to. People who are not merely alive, but who live.


So, I urge you all to wrap the gifts you give well. Spare no wrapping paper, choose the best ribbons you can find, and take as much time as you want, even if eager hands will tear it apart in a moment. Not everyone may collect gift-wrapping like I do. But everyone will appreciate it.


PS: What is the most unusual gift you have ever received? I don’t ask this only to trick you into leaving me a new comment — I would really like to know.

On How We Are Never Entirely Right About Something


During our lives we argue with many people about many things. We argue with our parents, with our friends, with our lovers. We argue even when we don’t want to argue.


In each of us there’s an innate mechanism that reacts with “I’m right, you’re wrong.” Even when we are not right.


Sometimes the “I’m right, you’re wrong” bias manifests itself vocally or in action, and can lead to arguments and possibly even fights. At other times it does it quietly, opposing resistance to something only in our heads. Depending on our personality, the “I’m right, you’re wrong” can be louder or quieter. Usually, the more we are contradicted, the louder it becomes.


Even when we try hard to be reasonable and cool-headed, “I’m right, you’re wrong” is still there. It’s in the way we cling to our ideas, our views, or versions of things and of the world.


I think we shouldn’t pretend that we can ever be unbiased or impartial. Much less when it comes to matters that are closely related to us. Before being right or wrong, our opinion or idea is first and foremost ours. It may be intangible, like all ideas, but it is a part of us, and for that reason alone we will stand behind it.


Arguing with people is the last thing I want to do in this life. But in spite of my quiet, reclusive life, I often catch myself doing it. I argue with doctors, I argue with my mother, I argue with my cat, I argue with myself. Sometimes I do it softly, in my head. Sometimes I shout it out loud.


I often don’t realize that I am being right about something until I’ve let out some rage. I often don’t realize that my mind would like me to be entirely right until the argument has been made, the voices have quieted, and I am alone once more.


Throughout history, “I’m right, you’re wrong” has probably killed more people than evilness. It has caused more harm and evil than any other pattern of thinking.

What can we do about it? “I’m right, you’re wrong” is built into our genes. I don’t think we can help it. But there’s something that we can do to make sure this won’t harm others, or ourselves.


We can try not to be too right about anything in particular. Not art, not politics, not other people, not love.


We may believe something with conviction. For example, I believe that not all of us have to go to college to live a good life.

But that doesn’t have to mean that my personal truth should be right for everyone. For many people, going to college is the key to a good life.  


I think that as far as the big things in our life are concerned, we can be right only up to a certain point, after which, admitting that there’s a possibility, however small, that we may be wrong, we shouldn’t allow our conviction to become stubbornness.

  

I don’t think that to live a good life we have to be right all the time. I think that to live a good life we shouldn’t be too wrong too much of the time. That can’t be too hard, can it?