So … here is the problem: do you take the Christmas letters I put out (I do these annually, but this is the first on my website … so deal with it) as real or fake news? Ah, the challenges that question poses – real or fake, and how is it possible, what are the procedures, what sources do you consult, to actually make that determination? And, how does that question relate to Christmas?
Christmas as a holiday event is unquestionably real … in this day and age … in certain parts of the world … as observed by specific cultures … in a variety of forms … spanning various time periods… well, okay, “real” is always subject to interpretation, but most people do recognize its salient characteristics. However, Christmas sub stories are suspect to varying degrees, ranging from totally discounted as frivolous myth based on pagan practices, through a pleasant diversion from day-to-day routines, to an awe inspiring celebration of God appearing on earth in human form.
Whatever your take on Christmas, at some point you had to make a decision regarding how you personally were going to deal with its practice, and that decision was schooled by family, friends, faith, culture, and even things like finances, relationships, politics … and many other factors.
Fake or real? Knowing there are falsehoods, even blatant lies, about certain aspects of Christmas, do you nevertheless embrace it because it is focused on supporting positive behaviors? If you see that lies and deliberate misrepresentations engender expressions of love, fellowship, charity, happiness – does that make those lies and falsehoods okay? That question and your answer is very much more important than some kind of simplistic intellectual exercise – it invokes that old high school quandary of determining whether or not the ends justify the means used to acquire them, and your feelings on the matter determine your behavior in ways that can result in life or death for others … and perhaps even yourself.
Yeah, I know. Christmas is not supposed to be a time for dealing with heavy philosophical questions … or real world circumstances/politics … or even thinking. Christmas is all about happiness, joy, and good feelings. Christmas lets the positive emotions out. That is a good thing, right? And it therefore is okay to be “creative” in how we interpret and explain and practice Christmas, right?
To be clear, my personal opinion is somewhat convoluted. I am all in favor of myth, magic, and fairy tales so long as they are understood to be myth, magic, and fairy tales. There is a process called “maturation” – a growing into maturity – that at certain stages benefits from belief in things that cannot be proven. Creativity is all about imagining, about the wonder and awe to be found in fantasy. So much of what we have today was founded in fantastic wondering and discovery of that which could only be seen in the mind’s eye. Fiction is often about uncovering mysteries, and occasionally those mysteries lead us to travel paths previously unknown, and to uncover truths previously thought impossible.
I am also of the opinion that maturity is a never ending process, and to discount the fantastic is to unreasonably limit the scale and scope of our progress. This in no way rejects the lessons of experience, the findings of experimentation and science, the process of reasoning and logic, and the role of “facts” in guiding our travels through life. However, this also means the answer to the ends/means question is clearly “it depends.”
Unfortunately, the “it depends” answer requires explicating exactly what “it depends” depends upon given explicitly identified ends, which almost always leads to discussions about values, and consequently morality. My sole statement regarding our current political climate in this Christmas letter is to note we are presently enmeshed in an increasingly foggy (I would prefer “smoggy”) state of trying to unravel the deliberate, tortuous, intermixing of fact and fallacy by those whose expressed purpose is personal gain, and this seriously violates my personal values and beliefs in the very sentiments that should be foundational to both the Christmas season as well as guiding my daily life throughout the year. In this case the ends are at best suspect, illogical if not irrational, poorly justified, and therefore the means cannot be defended as either necessary nor sufficient … nor ethical, nor moral, nor even legal.
YMMV, as always.