Catherine and I saw Rent recently, a truly depressing movie. Not because of the people that die in the flick (the writing glosses over the characters that perish, so the viewer has to come with their own pain to make the film effective). Rather, the deep sadness of the movie is its philosophy.
The repeated mantra is: “There is only us; there is only this.” While useful when dealing with past regrets, the philosophy becomes a rather selfish one when used to justify short term pleasure – especially at the expense of another’s long term pain.
But it is a hard philosophy to argue against – with logic. This is after all the survival of the fittest, every man for himself, social Darwinism.
But still our hearts rebel – surely life is more than for the self?
Even the makers of Rent rail against the people (who aren’t us) who live in self-centered bubbles.
This puts me in mind of the dilemma facing contemporary Christmas entertainments. (Don’t worry, you will see why soon enough.)
There is an obsession with “the true meaning of Christmas.” Mostly because we can all so easily see what the “false” meanings are. But what do you do when you (or more appropriately, your network or producers) don’t believe that there is a G-d, let alone a Christ, and you are trying to broadcast the “true meaning” of ChristwithoutChristmas?
As one example, the big screen adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas ran into this problem. To help fill two hours, they decided that the whole town of
Uh, well, they know that being selfish wasn’t good, so we shouldn’t be, or something, right? There is no model for the true meaning in the preceding ninety minutes, so we have to take it on faith that there is something more to the season than greed and pride.
Most of the others get it a lot better – at least in establishing a good argument against every man for himself. Such as the Scrubs cast’s re-voicing of A Charlie Brown Christmas that has been floating around the internet. (I’d link it here, but it is too crass for little or big ears).
When it comes time for Dr. Cox to step forward and explain the real meaning of Christmas, he tells Dorian to suck it up and acknowledge that he is surrounded by a community of love.
And they’ve established enough community to make you buy it.
So, community, love, peace, joy – that there is Christmas, right?
I’d argue the latter. I think the original A Charlie Brown Christmas got it right (one of the two reasons I’m giving for it being the best Christmas special ever – reason two tomorrow).
Linus steps forward to answer the question, “Does anybody know what Christmas is all about?” And he tells the simple story of G-d coming to earth as a baby.
The rest – the community and love and charity and peace and goodwill and resting merry and family and eggnog and stockings and wooden shoes and holiday spirit – the rest is all icing.
The cake is this: it isn’t all us, it isn’t all now. We are not alone, and never have to act like it again.
“Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”
Yes. “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of
Just my thoughts,