Several people seemed disappointed at the demise of my last blog. One of you even said it was the most interesting thing you'd been reading lately. I'm flattered, though I'm forced to ponder the poverty of your reading list if that's the case. Truth is, as I've mentioned before, there are things I'll only write -- and write about -- with the presumption of a readership. And, frankly, I kind of like the sort of thing I write when I have the luxury of presuming a readership. I'm working on the whole narcissism thing but there's a certain level of vanity that is part and parcel of being creative -- or at least fancying yourself the creative type.
So, welcome to my presumed readership. Tread lightly on my illusions. I make no promises of frequency, just a claim that if I get a hair up my butt about something, I'll try to write about in an enjoyable way and fire it off to anyone nice enough not to tell me they don't read it.
I've been re-reading some of my old stuff -- some of the really old stuff, before I tried to self-destruct -- and I realize I kind of like that guy. True, things have changed, but some things haven't changed that much. I make a pretty entertaining heretic (I think Arius had a point, for instance) but a lousy atheist. I make a fantastic yo-yo, and I'm trying to pretend that doesn't shoot my credibility to hell.
So anyway, I'm still playing drums at church -- beating the crap out of something is not a bad way to spend a-- and I arrived practice last night to discover that the has started already. Ugh. I hate Christmas music. "I thought about warning you," our electric guitar player said, kindly. I sucked it up and took one for the team. It can only last a month, right?
Okay, I like some of the jazz standards, and if they're campy enough and/or you serve enough drinks, some of it can be fun. And Coltrane's "Greensleeves" is enough to restore faith even to the most jaded, if only for three minutes and forty-two seconds. But overall, it's just too much for me.
I can appreciate a theology of incarnation, even if I can't quite make peace with the literalness of it. There's a still a certain beauty to it. And the political ramifications of declaring a new king, to a people for whom "give your heart to Jesus" was not on the cognitive map -- there's a lot of good stuff there. So I don't want to rip the birth narratives out my Bible or anything, though I do prefer to look at them in context.
No, mostly I think it's an aesthetic thing. Christmas in America -- like a lot of things in America -- is a study in excess. An exercise in kitsch. This seems especially true in church. Maybe it's the overdose of insipid re-writes of old carols ("Come peasant, king, to own him" becomes "come everyone and praise him" and I want to gag myself with one of my drumsticks) or equally insipid new attempts ("Save us tonight...little babe in the straw"). Maybe I'm just grumpy. I can live with that. My wife is smart enough and astute enough to keep our own observances tasteful and modest, and I love her. Plus, she makes peanut brittle, and buys me eggnog, and lets me believe things are going to be okay.
Something that put me in my place is a Salon.com editorial by . I don't always agree with Keillor but I dearly love the homely old guy and he's about the only person who can say "...you're in America. It's a Christian culture. Work with it," and get away with it. I think this is because I know he does not mean this in a triumphalistic Christian-right way, and because he says "Christian culture," not "Christian nation," and as such I can't really argue with him, and because he says "Work with it," not "deal with it" or "get over it." But it's this that really nailed it for me:
Christmas is an artistic performance, and art, by and large, is not made by contented people. It is made by wounded recluses, freaks, the absurdly self-conscious, the haunted and guilty, the humiliated, the outcasts, and we create this, first and foremost, for our children. To rise up out of confusion and dismay, with ghosts whispering to us, and bake cookies and light a candle and sing ' ' -- I can do that for my child, and if your children want to join us, they are most welcome.
I can live with that.