Thursday, December 19, 2013

 This is that time of year when some among us bend over backwards to make sure the kids know that “Santa” isn’t real and Christmas trees are really part of a pagan celebration. They hammer us with guilt about all the power being used by holiday lights and try to make sure that Christmas Carols aren’t sung in public parks.

The Art of Christmas (Granite Grumblings: Life in the “Live free or Die” State, 2009) is an open plea for all of us to step back from the politics and intellectual gamesmanship that attempts to pierce the spirit of the season.

At the very least this is a season when people get a few days off, so even the skeptics and avid non-believers have the chance to benefit from the season. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all took this opportunity to stop looking at our efforts to change the world and took a moment to look inward at what we can do to fix the soul that powers each of us.

Let’s gently agree to disagree on lots of stuff for a few days, and see if we can agree on a central theme that has been part of the season for countless generations.

Peace on earth, goodwill to men (and women).

Glenn K. Currie

The Art of Christmas

There have been lots of Grinches out there the last few weeks, telling us why we are all idiots for having the temerity to use our imaginations during this Christmas season.

We see frequent articles and letters criticizing the folly of those who disagree with “established science” and what it can tell us about the birth of Christ and creation. For good measure they toss in critiques of Santa Claus as well. It seems that those who have all the answers, can’t wait to share them with all of us pathetic fools who buy Christmas trees, rejoice in hope and gather together to share the joy of our beliefs.

Perhaps we all need to take a step back and develop a little perspective about “established science”. Science, through the ages, has been just like politics and religion, in that those in power believe they have all the answers and consider it a grievous affront for anyone to take issue with their boundless wisdom. 

It was the “established” scientific community that decreed the world was flat, the Sun revolved around the Earth, heavier than air machines could not fly, the platypus could not exist, and no one could really throw a curve ball (it was an optical illusion). And they didn’t come running with early acclaim for Einstein or Edison either. Almost every major scientific advance came only after withering criticism or disbelief by those with all the answers. The new discoveries were advanced by people who had questions and imagination and a willingness to admit that there are many possibilities in the universe.

Today we see much the same thing happening. It is a human condition, I guess, for those with a little intelligence to often decide they have a lot of intelligence, and appoint themselves the arbiters of all things possible. We still see it in politics and religion, and we certainly see it in science.

We also see it too often in the news. If something cannot be proven “scientifically”, it is discarded as the ravings of lunatics. Perhaps this is very similar to the treatment that would have occurred one thousand years ago if someone had started talking about the internet or cell phones or electricity. In those days such rantings would probably have gotten you burned at the stake. Today the punishment is more humane. Individuals are just pilloried with ridicule and scorn if they let their imagination soar into areas like the mysteries of creation. Those with all the answers have shown no real love for inquisitive minds or goodwill toward men.

It is frankly astonishing to me to see how agitated some in the scientific community get when someone implies that there are certain things that may be beyond all our understanding. They lash out with vituperation and personal assault, demanding that absolute proof be provided for every belief.

If a bumblebee were forced to prove he could fly, he would probably never make it off the ground. Sometimes, it takes a little faith. But unproven theories are the beginnings of all the great discoveries. And new revelations confound “established science” with great frequency. It has been a mix of imagination, wonder and a little humility, along with intelligence, curiosity and persistence that has led to most of the great discoveries in history. In all areas of religion, politics and science, the great minds needed to be able to see beyond the “established” thinking of their times. 

Perhaps some day there will be another revelation for those with all the answers. Until that time, however, maybe these people could take a break. Why not take a nice vacation with those foolish days off that you have received. And give those of us who still take some things on faith, the chance to enjoy the wonders and the joys of this season. Let us give wings to our imagination and our exploration of the secrets of the universe, and let our children still enjoy the excitement of Santa Claus. Mostly, just give us all a chance to relax in the pleasure of loved ones and share the gifts that we give and have been given.

And maybe all of us can take a moment to step outside on a cold starry night and reflect on the wisdom of thinking we have all the answers.

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