I could be anywhere with my one year old son and my wife where the holiday herd is—the shopping malls, for the most part where Christmas has found a permanent home, tucked away from its traditional haven, the family living room, the kitchen, or the garden, etc., or, if anything, the homely heart where the cardiac spirit of Christmas is kept, breathing secretly, palpitating with life that refuses to comply with the absurd requirements of getting along with the rest tuning in with the common musicality of the season. But I am here facing my laptop monitor, tinkering with the keys, while my son is soundlessly asleep, dreaming of jingle bells, and my wife making noise on the keyboard at her work station, somewhere where Christmas is.
Where Christmas is, there it’s supposed to be perfectly Christmas. Christmas is everywhere—on the TV, on radio, over the internet, on smart phones and tech gadgets which make Christmas all over the place where you can bring the media and where media come in handy. These extensions of human sensory organs dictate the mood. Once you get into the groove, you feel the magic spell of the season. The trick is on the mood, which is a general feeling of a group. It’s a holdover of our past life as part of a herd, the mentality develops in the subterranean channels of the unconscious and as hardly detectable as their nature is they build up without notice. The group sense reasserts itself especially when there is a general lack of sense, in other words, the dissolution of meanings, the vanishing of values that are thinning in the air as the air gets thicker with high carbon values, the herd taking over the ramparts of individual autonomy. It’s even worse than could be expected because individual autonomy can’t be trusted anymore as it were centuries ago though we should not expect an autonomy that was practiced there something to our liking, given our modern sophisticated taste and sensibility. Individual autonomy is a herd in disguise, if not a herd that loathes itself for being so. Everyone wants to get in the groove of freedom; everyone becomes free to shatter the herd which the family, charged with preserving enabling traditions of the past, mostly represents. It’s the youth generation, or the sibling generation (the fifteeners to thirty five something ) in Robert Bly’s apt description of the new society taking place inspired by the new technological revolution, bringing Christmas to the malls, to the internet, to the virtuality regions of human happiness away from the strictures of actual reality and the obligations that they translate to.
Indeed, humans as humans, sans the modern tools of convenience which are fast becoming artificial for the needs of a decaying humanity, have become perfectly incapable of feeling through their own senses, let alone reasonably dictate their own moods without the need to depend solely on outside stimuli which have turned human moods into veritable items of consumption. But hope springs eternal. There is a silent lot among humankind that wishes to stand outside this time of gift-giving where the gift is commonly taken as the rush of moods to get along with everybody. (The meaning of the Greek term ekstasis, that is, to stand outside, is kept in mind here). Their silence is a refusal to participate in this season; a passive activism of thought where thought means the true source of giving. If thought is that source, then thought gives. Thought is the one that really gives. Thoughtfulness: a thought that gives in silence. Thought is the heart that gives, the mind that gives time to give. But that time is not yet.
Nevertheless, we have been hankering for thought though for the most part overwhelmed by the playful satiation of our desires in the virtual landscape, which reinforces obliviousness (it takes our time to reckon away from a necessary mindful occupation of a mood). Just for how long we have been yearning for the thought that gives, and since when, we may not have a chance to completely discover. It is perhaps buried in the untold past of humanity that myths and folktales can only secretly whisper. And they whisper a secret that even they do not assume to be true. They have a lot of respect for the integrity of the past, its silence, its mystery. But our technologies do. They turn our myths and folktales into blockbuster cinemas.
Our being captive to the technological media of modern times tells exactly how this secret is being communicated and shared today. The secret is thought should give way to more practical concerns and we have been doing exactly the right thing. We have been accommodating the call of the times in terms of giving in to the temptation of earning an individual place for autonomous expressions away from home where home represents the sluggishness of the pre-technological past, the naivety of old norms, or the traditionalism of the dining area, the sense of belongingness that the living room offers, and the aesthetic learning that the kitchen affords our culinary minds to segue into the subtle innuendos of mixing, of blending, of harmonizing, of sautéing, of warming the food with just the right amount of fire, etc, anticipating the real art work that is about to unfold in later life. We would rather express individual autonomy in the public sphere, the region of freedom and presumably of happiness; of an “I” that claims a space in the symbolic order, the sociality sphere. But since it is symbolic a claimed space for and in behalf of freedom will always elude its actual referent. It does not want a referent, in the first place. Instead, it desires a form of happiness that homes can’t take away, a taste of freedom that the kitchen can’t match, a sense of autonomy that the dining area discourages.
The time to eat is a time for communal bonding. The food, though it serves a nutritional purpose, would here actually serve an aesthetic underpinning, a spiritual sense of belongingness as part of the humanity of the gifted—gifted with blessings that are for the most part the actual labor of others: our individual part on our own success will not be possible without a network of others doing their share. The time to eat is thus the time to accommodate the other, others into the dining room, give thanks to them for the gifts they bestow on our table. But the fast-food chains have overtaken this spirit.
Why is it that it’s hardly Christmas despite the successful saturation of our imaginative landscape by the technological media of today which create everything from Christmas to Christmas, meaning, everything from real to real?
But where Christmas is Christmas, where it is happening, there Christmas does not claim a recognizable space, a recognizable time, there it’s Christmas like no other. It’s Christmas in between-space of gift-giving, in between-time of the season of giving. Where you can’t figure out today when Christmas is, there you know what Christmas means, that is, in the time beyond here and today. In the time of a wonderful thought, a thought that gives us the Christmas time of the future within the margins of the here and today. Then, it’s happy christmas all year round.
I’m calling my wife to ask her to take an early leave today. I would have texted but no I preferred to call, the human voice taking my mood to the auditory canal of a human hearer who can voice back, the hearer only pausing to accommodate a heart’s voice expressing the plea for ekstasis, a petition to relinquish our false love for an artificial humanity that has virtualized the workplace as the home where it thinks the home should be. It’s an exchange of life, life as it is actually lived.