Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Death of Santa Claus

My 12 year old daughter just confided in me that it is becoming increasingly difficult for her to continue to believe in Santa Claus. That she sees the existence of Santa Claus as still worth considering is a testament to the sophistication of her perception of his (its) nature. I explained to her at a relatively early age that Santa Claus is the name that many European-influenced cultures give to a seasonal spirit of selfless giving.

My idea of spirit is a bit more precise than the prehistoric concept of independent, non-material, sentient manifestations that are capable of influencing the world around us. I regard spirit as the connection among a collection of minds that inclines them to act in unison. Spirits do not exist without component minds any more than minds exist without component neurons. Sports fanaticism, market forces, patriotism, racism and religious zeal are examples of spiritual manifestations.

In this context I explained to my daughter that Santa Claus is simply a spirit that inclines people to be more loving, kind and giving between Thanksgiving and New Years. Santa Claus is an intentional spirit, specifically created by people to bring out the best in them at this time of year. Every mind that contributes to and thus acts out of this spirit is an avatar of Santa Claus. The fat, bearded guy in the red suit is merely how people who cannot imagine such manifestations without bodies choose to picture that spirit.

Over the last few years my daughter has noticed a strong sense of obligation underlying many people’s efforts to give at this time of year. But isn’t Santa about giving freely out of love for others? There must be a different spirit underlying such compulsory giving. The fact that selfless giving is never coerced means that this other spirit must be in competition with Santa Claus. Since these days most people seem to be doing forced giving during the holiday season, Santa must be losing. I guess I should explain to her that, “Yes Akilah, there is a Santa Claus, but he is being killed and eaten by the Spirit of Commerce”.

1 comment:

Major Generalist said...

First off, you’re a truly brilliant parent to explain Santa Claus in such a way. Secondly, both you and your daughter are correct—the obligatory nature of gift-giving stems from a lack of connection with our true selves that has been supplanted by consumerist drive.

If we all acted in accordance with our nature, when we were overtaken by the spirit of Santa Claus, we might give gifts throughout the year, when we were most sincere. But that isn’t helpful to the consumerist retail machine that makes the majority of its profits in the 4th quarter. Instead, we’re left feeling pressured to buy things in December, and if we don’t receive something in return, our expectations are dashed and we become hurt. Our culture makes us act against our very spirits while at the same time forcing us to go along with the “spirit of the season.” It is actually painful. It’s hard not to be resentful.

So what to do? Shall we each meditate on the person we are buying for, try to connect with what we love about them in our hearts, and find a small token, a physical manifestation of our feelings? Of course, it’s hard when your parent/friend/partner/child wants something totally unrelated to your feelings for them, like a new watch or slippers or a battery powered screwdriver.

It seems to me that the only way to overcome this is to collectively agree with your family that you all feel this way, and to change your celebration of the season accordingly. I would imagine that few people would really be able to do this, though, and they would harbor secret resentment that they didn’t get the Playstation they really wanted.

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