I’m a big admirer of scientific discoveries. I collect data and evidence because they are reassuring and often useful in life and stories. Right now, the Geminid shower is taking place, but I can’t see anything. It doesn’t matter. Anyway, my stance on science doesn’t mean I discard experiences and phenomena that can’t be dissected, measured, classified and grown in agar. I’m a writer after all, and a reader before that. But most of all I’m a dreamer.
Traditions like Christmas are not about making sense of the world, or observing religious ceremonies. For me, they are about capturing something magical and imaginative. Sure, the tinsel is plastic and (probably) toxic…but humans yearn for mystery. We love diamonds for the sparkle, and the sparkle so much we don’t mind if it is from glass.
Christmas, the solstice, and the change of the seasons imbue this time of the year with a sense that around any corner could be possibilities of something beyond our ken. It’s a feeling of perhaps magic, not even directly related to gift giving old men with beards dressed in red. My appreciation for Christmas is the same reason we read and tell stories, (religions are partly stories that go viral) and scare ourselves with tales of ghosts or fall into reveries by firelight. There is mystery beyond where the sparkle of light falls. Without light there would not be shadows, and we are lesser without either.
Some people might not need formal religious structures, and the rules they lay down. They have valid points to make, but they shouldn’t pretend we are not all frail, mystery-yearning creatures full of whim and whimsy. Yes, logic exists, but there is plenty of evidence that suggests we don’t depend on rationality in the same way as we rely on feelings. Even the most rational humans are full of bias, superstitions, and un-deconstructed habits of thought. Personally, I don’t want to imagine a world devoid of the possibility of the irrational and weird, and of fay folk at the bottom of the garden. Furthermore, I don’t see how this detracts or diminishes my appreciation of the scientific method. There is validity and value in both modes of being.
I’m less credulous than I was, after all, I am allowed to grow as a person, or is that diminish? My point is humans are wayward emotional beings. Christmas might be a crass and consumerist co-mingling of Christianity and ancient Middle Eastern and European mystery faiths, weighed down by family angst, the pressures of expectation, and financial strain, but that just demonstrates the hold irrationality has over us. It too demonstrates how culture preserves even the most unreasonable of society’s practices beyond any progress science makes. But we pay the price as adults to see magic light up the faces of others. In the deep of midwinter, yearning for hope, it probably makes more sense than in a bright Australian summer. Yet, we persist and families roam the streets looking at the lights when the sun (finally) sets.
I will never forget the feeling I had as a four-year old, thanks to my mother, who snuck around, night after night, to hand make my three-level cardboard doll’s house. My parents couldn’t afford grand or expensive items, but I declared to everyone that day it was the best Christmas ever. I understand now that it was not because I got a (fabulous) present, but because my parents somehow preserved a sliver of wonder in their un-glamorous lives and lit it within me. Wonder is my inheritance, now my doll’s house is nothing but a memory.
This sense of the possibility of the numinous is as precious as any diamond. I hold on tight to it. Some days it’s the only thing that gets me by. Writing is just the logical choice to make an irrational attempt to recapture past wonder and thus, perhaps, pass it on to someone else.