Came home to a beautifully decorated house with the smell of homemade cookies baking and the sights and sounds of Christmas and family everywhere. Really cold in AZ right now for some reason. People here are so friendly you think you’ve walked onto a movie set from the fifties.
I have heard so many of: “excuse me, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, pardon me, hello, how are you,” since I have been here. It’s been great. People actually smile and look you in the eye. Like so many other places all over America, but Miami. I think maybe it’s just Miami. Here I have to keep reminding myself that it is O.K.
To look people in the eye and smile. In Miami you have to keep reminding yourself not to. Really in all of South Florida, not just Miami. There seems to be such a strong cloud of rudeness and indifference there. Some people claim it’s because of the seasons and how they never change. Other people say it’s because there are so few Americans left there now, it’s mostly South Americans and Caribbean’s and maybe it’s a language barrier. Maybe it’s the lack of natural beauty, like mountains, valleys, wide open spaces, streams, rivers, or trees that change color. I don’t know what it is. It is like some kind of a ‘too cool’ mentality that sucks people in after they live there for a while. And you totally forget that you live in it until you travel to other parts of America and everyone starts acting so friendly.
At first you are just taken aback, like why the hell is everyone so damn friendly around here. Till you hit the next city and they act the same way and you start realizing it’s just Miami itself. Bas asked me the other day right before I left, “hey Fishy do you think that Miami is ruining us? With its unfriendliness and rudeness do you think it’s like maybe going to ruin us and we won’t be able to go back to the way we used to be when we leave?” I answered him, “I don’t know bro. I really don’t know.” That question broke my heart, knowing that he came from Vermont, one of the friendliest places in America.
Woke up this morning firmly committed to finding and deciding on and starting to plan to move to the new place I will call home. I didn’t feel LA as much as I wanted to so I don’t think it will be there yet, so it looks like it’ll be New York. People always say a lot about New York but I have always found it be a very friendly place. Tough, but friendly. There is such an excitement in the air that people cannot help but be friendly.
Combination black sheep/prodigal son comes home. Whole family going to the Catholic Church for Christmas eve for mass. Ask’s, ‘are you coming to church with us?’ I tell them “I spend my whole life working my butt off to hopefully see that wretched den of greed, lies, and contradictions crumble to nothing before I die and you’re asking me if I’m coming, like you don’t even know me? C’mon.” My sister-in-law looks down, tries desperately to bite her tongue. I sense the situation. My mom asks if I will just do it for her as a present. I fell into the whole thing. I don’t want to hurt anyone I love. So I think about it more. If people continue to go then what will happen? Nothing will happen. The church will continue on like it always has, perpetuating lies and half truths, offering problems instead of honesty and solutions (not that it doesn’t do a lot of good helpful things for the community—but I don’t think that’s any reason to allow something to exist that is so confusingly dishonest and contradictory—we wouldn’t let our courts or our government exist like that; O.K. well maybe we would…).
Reminds me of when I was sixteen and I asked my priest what would happen to all the people all over the world who were not Christians, who haven’t been “saved”, would they go to hell? He said yes, they will go to hell for eternity according to the bible, but that “God knows best. that’s not our concern.” That was when I realized that maybe I, at the ignorant age of sixteen, knew more about the domain of the human spirit than this middle aged priest did. And that was my final farewell to the church. I wasn’t going to be a part of that kind of bigoted, exclusionary, idiotic grade school thinking, so I bailed on it and never looked back. Just as worse, by continuing to go to all these old fashioned religion’s churches it also makes it hard for new modern churches of a more humanistic spirituality to spring up and take root in our society. So as much as I want to be a part of the family and not rock the boat I have to be true to the mission. I think it is better to walk alone in truth, than to walk with the group in lies, especially if you are fully aware of the reality of it, and the long term implications.
Reminds me of my world literature teacher in college, Dr. Grande. He got to a section called world religion in literature, and so we studied the bible as literature. On the first day he announced that he was aware that the bible was, for the most part, historical mythology and that was why we were studying it as literature, but that, even though he knew this intellectually, he was raised a Christian and felt like he was too old to change his ways. But for us in the class who were young, he told us that we had a million possibilities to ponder before us—this was some revolutionary talk we were hearing, some of us for the first time—here was this respectable old man, this doctor no less, professing to us that even he felt that the bible wasn’t necessarily the word of God, but a fascinating collection of myths and stories written by man. You know we just ate it up being the young cigarette smoking, sartre reading, intellectuals we were at the time. But I remember looking at him in that moment in class when he made this announcement and it was one of those moments where everything slows down and gets real quite, and I thought to myself there, isn’t that funny this guy sharing with us how he is torn between what he thinks to be true and what he was raised to believe, and how that conflict is set up in us as we grow up… I was too young at the time to be aware of any such conflicts in myself but I was just starting to recognize the possibility of this phenomenon.
Spent a lot of time thinking about this today. What is Christmas going to turn into once all the myths and untruths filter out of human consciousness? If it’s not about the birth of Jesus, and the nativity scene, and the little drummer boy, and ye merry gentlemen, and the three kings, and all that other stuff, which it isn’t already to a large portion of American people like the Jews, Muslims, Indians, Hindus, Atheists, Buddhists and the humanists, then what is it all about? What can the holiday be for? What can it represent to us? Can it still be about the forgiveness of our sins? Can we forgive ourselves of our own sins? Can we forgive others in our lives for their sins without the permission or acknowledgement of some unseen force or the validation of the Jesus story? Can it still be about the glory of God? However we decide to create that God in our own minds and hearts without a church or religion dictating it to us.
For thousands of years before the birth of Jesus we had been celebrating this holiday already, once called Yule, and other pagan holidays, as a time of renewal and contemplation. A time to reflect on and renew, our values and a time to get together with family and celebrate that. The Christmas tree is still left over from that time. That is not a Jesus or a Christian tradition. Neither is the giving of presents to those you love. Or even Santa Clause. And neither is the friendly and good hearted nature of everyone all over town. All of these great traditions can stay a part of this wonderful holiday. And so can getting together with family, and sledding, and skiing, and sleigh bells, and egg nog by the fire, and ‘walking in a winter wonderland,’ and ‘let it snow let it snow,’ and ‘jingle bells,’ and Bing Crosby Christmas specials, and it’s a wonderful life with Jimmy Stewart, and Miracle on 34th Street, and so much more.
Beav has a new baby, about four months old. I have five nieces now. Uncle Fishy, the long haired freak in the videos on the TV who never goes to church with us, is a big kick for them. It’s really fun. I took all the girls to the toy store and told them O.K. lets buy whatever you want. We just went crazy grabbing stuff off the shelves and throwing everything into our baskets, the whole time we were pouring giant pixie sticks full of colored sugar down our throats. I think that’s what uncles are for. When we got home, I told them to go sneak the hot apple pie off the stove and bring it down on the floor in the living room. I showed them how to eat a pie with your fingers. The five of us had pie all over our faces, especially Ali, the three year old. We were laughing like crazy. When my sister-in-law’s came downstairs they were fuming. That was the desert for after dinner. Oh well. I smiled. They looked at me like I was the devil. But again I think that’s what uncles are for.
I cannot help but imagine that the holiday is no less enjoyable and no less joyful or loving or heart-warming without the religious connotations. The joy in our hearts and the smiles on our faces and the love that suffuses this house the last two days has had nothing to do with religion, but rather it has come from all of us being together, sharing and caring about each other, eating good home-cooked meals, and sitting by the fire, and listening to the girls sing songs, and me and my bro sitting outside in the freezing cold sipping brandy and smoking stogies, and taking lots of pictures, and the looks on each others faces when we open up a present that someone who loved us very much saved up to buy for us. It has to do with how on New Years we all get together and share our hopes and aspirations for the New Year, and our thankfulness for what a great year we had and how blessed we feel for everything we have in our lives. That’s the reason for the season. And I dare say that anyone and everyone can experience that without any religion at all, if they want to, and wouldn’t it be great if we could all do so without any fear of damnation to some imaginary world of fire and brimstone and some gargoyle like red beast who punishes you just for being human, or without worrying about some God in the sky who wants you to do it this way or that way, depending on what country you were born in, or forever be damned. ???? Dare I think/say it ?????
Working on the song ‘Everybody’s Talking Bout Asheville.’ Because after all, every one is right now.
Current Spin: Nora Jones, Come Away with Me. I love this CD. Audioslave. Great rock record. Chris still sings like a motherfucker.