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The Holidays

The anticipation of the weeks surrounding the rich pagan tradition of celebrating the winter solstice played a magical role in my life. It meant family, abundant food and most likely cold snowy weather. In later years, upon learning of the Christian cooption story, I felt a sense of the personal growth through the acquisition of that knowledge. To me those moments represented a philosophical unearthing of truth that I found I would be searching for the rest of my life. I t helped me realize that there is usually more to a story than what you first hear.

Belief vs. Truth

As Christmas became the “Christmas” we all know and love, its’ history gave me a look at how the real-world works. The only magic involved is what we embrace with our hearts. Year after year the holiday season would bring familiar visitors to our house, some with gifts, some with stories. Aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins, there always seemed to be something to do or share. In the days leading up to Christmas morning, I would coyly be aware of my parent’s behavior and travel patterns. I would pick my times carefully, as I surveyed the bedroom closets and other hiding places for shopping bags and box labels, attempting to ascertain a hint of what was to surprising arrive on Christmas morning.

To be honest with the reader, I must admit to you that with all the analytics I put toward learning what gifts might be purchased for who and from where, I believed in the existence of Santa Claus well after the typical expiration date of such beliefs. I think that definitely says something about me and probably many others. The belief in something you know not to be true is extremely powerful. That conundrum was brought home to me in stunning fashion in a movie theater on evening.

In 2003 Tammy and I were watching Secondhand Lions with Robert Duvall, Michael Caine and Haley Joel Osment. There is a scene in the film called “The Speech” (its on YouTube) where Osment walks out of a farmhouse in the chilly night air because he sees Duvall standing alone by a pond. The two have a conversation about life and Osment is confused about what truth is. Paraphrasing here, Duvall tells the boy that some of the most important things in life to believe in are not true, but they are worth believing in regardless. Things like believing that good always overcomes evil, that in the midst of danger you are safe. Like any properly functioning mythology these are the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves. As any religion which seeks to comfort you by asking you to put belief in stories which only faith can hold together. Art seems to have informed my life in countless ways.

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