“Dieu a tout fait de rien. Mais le rien perce.”
– Paul Valéry
I didn’t grow up believing in Santa Claus. We went to my grandparent’s house for Christmas Eve every year, sure. But Santa was never a focal point of this gathering. Just a lot of Polish food and traditions and a very loud (and very female-dominated) family gathered together in a little house — a night really not so unlike any of our other family get-togethers with so much food and noise that happened on the regular. Near midnight, the adults would somehow gather the group of unruly and overexcited cousins into a back bedroom to sing Christmas carols while the adults made haste to put the gifts under the tree in the palor. My Dziadzia went outside and shook the jingle bells outside of the window of the room where we were cloistered — and we heard the other adults loudly exclaiming from a nearby room about Santa’s arrival. We all knew what was up. Well, at least I did.
Pictured above: Suchindrum – a tiny temple village near Kanyakumari has this beautiful chariot (Rath) which is just one among many such chariots with fractal like sculptures adorning them (pictures by Aravindan Neelakandan, https://www.facebook.com/aravindan.neelakandan/posts/994499657238673)
“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges.”
– Jorge Luis Borges, “Labyrinths”
Raised Jewish in our own household, my parents never fed me and my brother and sister the Santa story in the first place. So it wasn’t exactly hard to connect-the-dots. Everyone who arrived came in carrying the exact presents that would be “hidden” in a bedroom, only to be trotted out later and put under the tree once the youngest family members were appropriately sequestered. And my grandfather kept those bells that he shook every December 24th in the top drawer of a dresser in the family room. We took them out to play with when no adults were looking — and they usually weren’t (it was the early 80’s and helicopter parenting was not on anyone’s radar; benign neglect was de riguer).
I relate all of this with the blessed fondness of my own memory and with happy nostalgia — yet without the mistake of wishing to project this simpler time as some sort of universal ideal…not foolishly imposing this remembrance as a “those were the days” sort of thing either.
“Except that the proof is never definitive, after all; one has to begin again with each new person. As a result of beginning over and over again, one gets in the habit. Soon the speech comes without thinking and the reflex follows; and one day you find yourself taking without really desiring. Believe me, for certain men at least, not taking what one doesn’t desire is the hardest thing in the world.”
– Albert Camus, The Fall
So, I never believed in Santa, and thus I never had that quintessential, deflating American childhood moment when I found out that…Santa.wasn’t.real. But I’ve often wondered about that experience. What it is like to have the rug pulled out from under you. To have something that you believed in so sweetly and deeply to suddenly just one day not exist anymore. Poof…gone.
We are a nation of believers. We all grew up wanting to have something to cling to, to identify with, to feel was real. It is not just the evangelicals, the right. The left is the same — following the drumbeat of Scientism or the academy’s predetermined PC-agenda. And even if we manage to dislodge ourselves from any of this obvious group-think, the desire to believe in something, anything is still there. Our personal experiences, those which resonate in our hearts and minds and which reflect experiences of ourselves and those closest to us compel us to declare something solid, definitive. “This I believe”: voices on our daily commutes, sounding so much like our own, define their’s and send the message that we too must find something to believe in — and tell it to the world.
And I did have such a “Santa” experience in childhood anyway. When I was a child, I remember the time that there were two worlds. Not one more important or better than the other. There was the daytime world that followed a steady, pleasant rhythm: where I played with my friends, had my family, went to school; places and names and rules were always somewhat the same, and this was good. There was the nighttime world when I slept and dreamed, and this had its own patterns and shades of experience…so unlike the rhythm of the day; but that world made sense in a different way; always a curious mix, something new thrown in, unpredictable but understood all the same.
Over time, of course, the two were no longer on equal ground. Daytime, I was told, was most definitely real. The other world? All “just a dream,” something not to be held onto, never to be taken seriously. Come back to reality. My Santa Claus moment came in waves and in piled-on layers. Reality, apparently, must sink in at all costs.
“We walked in light showers, and I felt that same intense awareness of presence as I had many years back…Layers and layers and layers, all colored over by the most present.”
To the Wire (May 2015)
My son and I took another walk today. This one was also in a misty rain, much like that time before. Spring came and went. Summer is already gone too — poof. Nothing gold can stay. The leaves are already changing in late September and beginning to fall from the trees. I think autumn will arrive early this year. Who knows? Many, many years after my Santa Claus moment, if you ask me what I believe, I would only be able to say this now: there are no such things as coincidences.
“In the differentiated states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep, the supreme consciousness of turiya is found as one.” (Spanda Kārikās,1.3)