Santa Claus is Dead?

On Sundays I usually have a post about anything and everything. But this is December and it is a month that I treat a little differently. Each Sunday I will post a different Christmas story. My regular followers, those that have been with me for a few years, may recognize these tales.

I apologize if you remember them, I’ll work on that for next year. I’d like to wish everyone the blessing of this Holiday Season, however you celebrate.

This is a time of love, of peace and of understanding. May we all indulge too much.

‘Santa Claus is dead.’

When Sebastian Phillips finished writing that phrase on his bulletin board, he turned around to see what the reaction had been on his students. He was not disappointed.    Because this was a first-year philosophy course he expected them to be a little green when it came to abstract ideas.  After all they were just kids.  Truth be told, Professor N. Sebastian Phillips wasn’t all that much older than his students.

When he looked around the room Sebastian saw surprise, humour and perhaps disbelief, it was also very quiet.  Here he was, a college professor talking about a white haired, fat man in a red suit as if he were real.  Well, real and dead.

“When you signed up for this course, I am quite sure you were not expecting to talk about a symbol for a religious holiday that has come to mean the excesses of commercialism that are rampant in our society.”

Sebastian looked out at his students.  They seemed relieved; this was more like it.

“Santa Claus does exist.”

Now Sebastian heard a few giggles and was that a grunt?

“Professor, those two statements cannot both be correct. There either is a Santa Claus or there isn’t? I mean really! ”

Sebastian grinned, “Actually they can Adam. A thing can only be dead if it first existed. “

“Come on Professor there is no Santa Claus!  That is only a marketing gimmick to get parents to buy more for their kids. Commercialism at it’s best:  vulgar!” These words were spoken by a young woman with an earring in her nose and one in her belly button which flashed every time she turned around.

“Well Cindy, yes and no.”

At this point the room erupted in confusion. A great many of the students were arguing about the wisdom of using symbols, some about the evils of commercialism in general and the western world’s corruption of money in particular.  Sebastian noted which students seemed to think he was demented and which students were curious.  Curious minds are open minds.

Very quietly Professor Phillips spoke.  “Amanda did you believe in Santa Claus as a child?”

The room was suddenly quiet. Everyone turned and looked at Amanda, eager to learn her answer. The professor had chosen to ask the one person in the room who appeared normal.  She was conservatively dressed with no strange piercings throughout her body.  She also preferred to observe any heated discussions without actually joining in.

“Amanda . . .” her professor coached.

“Yes.” Was the quiet response.

“And how did you feel when you learned that the jolly man in a red suit was just a marketing ploy.”

The answer was a few minutes in coming and it was not the answer everyone was expecting.  “I still believe in Santa Claus and I do not believe he is dead professor.”

For the second time that morning there was complete silence in the room, a stunned silence.

And then there was pandemonium.  Only snippets of conversations could be heard.  “I always knew that woman was nuts!”  Geez I wish I had taken a mathematics course, that would of made sense.” “It is going to be a very long day.”  “Do you want to go to the pub afterwards I think I could use a drink?”  “I don’t know who is more insane: that Amanda chick or that Professor?”

Professor Phillips let the arguments roll about the room for several minutes. During this time Amanda just sat and looked at her hands as if she was too timid to become involved in a conversation she had helped to create.

“Okay everybody pipe down, you have had your little discussions and each one of them has some sort of validity.  Problem is you’re not listening.  Does Santa Claus exist?  Yes.  Does he exist as a fat, old man in a red suit?  Yes.  That guy in the red suit is on every corner in the Western world ringing a bell and selling products. Something can exist in more than one embodiment.  We see the jolly, old fella and we equate him with shopping at Christmas.  Do you know where the idea for Santa Claus came from?  Amanda might.  Because she alone seems to understand what Santa Claus represents, and who he is.  Let me tell you a little story.”

“In a coastal town called Patra, in what is now Turkey, in the year 260AD a child was born.  His name was Nicholas.  His parents were taken from him when he was a child and yet he still grew up with a generosity of spirit and a love of children. He was a rich young man who tried to use his money to give other people happiness.  He did ‘good’ in secret. Eventually he became known as St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra and his generosity continued.”

“Over the centuries St. Nicholas has become beloved by many religions.  Our Western tradition of Santa Claus and Father Christmas originated with St. Nicholas.  His faith and his actions make remembering him more important even in our day and age. He is our Santa Claus and people need to remember him.  In essence it is his spirit of giving that is behind our traditions at Christmas.  The spirit of Santa Claus is alive and well.”

“A beautiful character is more powerful and more memorable to more people than any marketing ploy or religious dogma.  Santa Claus, even if he comes in the guise of a human being is still the loving spirit of the good Nicholas. Santa Claus does exist, and should continue to exist for as long as we remember what he stands for.”

There was total silence in the room.  Not a single student had a humorous quip, or disparaging remark to make.  In fact, when Sebastian looked around the room he saw only understanding and awe. Finally, these supposedly well-educated young adults had picked up on something that all children knew from a very young age: if you believe, it will endure.

“Class dismissed.”

Sebastian smiled to himself and started to gather up his books and notes. The class had gone well, better than he’d expected.  But the year was getting on and there are places he needed to be so he was going to have to tender his resignation and move on.  But at that point Sebastian realized that not every student had left the room. He looked up.

“Amanda, how can I help you?”

“Professor Phillips you haven’t been completely honest with us, have you?  I know that Santa Claus exists and not as the jolly, red suited man, but rather as St. Nicholas/St. Nick.  You see my family can trace its roots back to that same town in which St. Nicholas was born.  As a matter of fact, we’ve kept a very close watch throughout the years on the descendents of that family.  It has always been the responsibility of my family to ensure that yours is protected.  I’m surprised you didn’t know that.  What’s your first name Professor Phillips?”

“Yes, I thought perhaps you did know,” Sebastian’s grin was even more pronounced. You know I won’t be here next week.  I have a lot of preparing to do and Christmas is not far away. And yes, I am Nicholas/St. Nick. ”

 

The end

 

 

Thinking

What does an elephant think about,

As he stands inside a zoo?

What passes through his mind,

As he’s looking back at you?

What does a pigeon think about,

As he soars above the crowds?

Perhaps it just a simple thing,

As he plays amongst the clouds.

A single ant is scurrying,

His job it must be done.

The others they depend on him,

The many and the one.

A crow is thinking, I can tell,

He cocks his head at me.

Is he looking at my lunch,

Does he think it’s free?

Two yellow fish are playing,

Deep beneath the sea.

I wonder what they’re thinking of

Could it be of me?

A turtle swims beneath the waves,

A carefree life at best.

But then one day he wonders,

What about the rest?

Behind, beside and over there,

Are those we do not know.

But they have thoughts and feelings,

Just like that silly crow.

What does a person think about,

And he looks upon another?

Race and colour notwithstanding,

Could he be my brother?

This crazy world that we call ours,

We’re only tenants here.

If we make nice and play together,

There is no one to fear.

The Thought Police?

What do you think about when you’re alone? If no one is looking for an answer, what is the question?  What do you ponder? Is it just before you go to sleep at night that your mind is free to wander without restraint? Do you go with it?

I’m looking at a picture of someone I have never met, someone I do not know. And I wonder what he thinks about. I wonder what the people are thinking about that I pass on the street. Are they having a good day? Are they happy and thinking about a lover. Or are they fixated on an issue they do not seem to be able to rectify?

We cannot know what another is thinking about unless they tell us. And even then, chances are good they won’t be telling us everything. Why should they? They have a right to privacy. We have a right to have deep dark corners of our minds that we do not share with any one, unless of course our deep dark fantasies are too deep, too dark and too terrifying. That in itself opens up a whole can of worms.  Think thought police…  Be afraid, be very afraid.

If we were able to hear the thoughts of another, we would run screaming into the night. We would have no context. We don’t know why they’re thinking what they are thinking, we don’t know what circumstances triggered it. Because no two people go through an experience the same way, it stands to reason that what you think about, even if it’s on the same topic, will be wildly different. And that’s a good thing.

I believe that it is our differences that compel us to create, to invent, to evolve. Quite frankly if there were too many of me the world would be in huge trouble! Even twins are different. Knowing what someone else is thinking is never a good idea. Our thoughts are the one place where we should have total privacy, total immunity from the world. Now when they stop being thoughts and become actions then it’s far more important the rest of the world knows what’s going on. Or at least those around you. After all actions have consequences. Some good, some bad.

So, to all of those who want to know what I’m thinking . . . you don’t, you really, really don’t.