The Spirit of the Season

A season is upon us prompted by celebrating the birth of among other things, the idea of “Peace on Earth, Good will Towards Men”.  It is a time of giving, when we are to think of others rather than ourselves.  For many, it is to celebrate the birth of one who gave everything, even his life for the benefit of all people, even those not yet born.  Regardless of how a person might choose to believe, it is uplifting to see folks wanting to see some goodness spread about.  And I think many do, including you.  Why else would you be reading this?

Yet the most powerful idea we teach the children during this time is to focus on what they want to receive, with little concern for what it might cost someone else who is expected to get it for them.  They will have to develop the generous attitude of charity later when they’ve matured, and have become unselfish, helpful, forgiving and benevolent souls, just like all of us adults are, of course.  You know that.

At a local shopping mall, extra stock clerks and cashiers have been hired in anticipation of the increased traffic, and security has been “beefed up” considerably.  Some people volunteering to collect for a charity are instructed on how to make frequent bank drops to minimize their exposure to being robbed.

The game of the season, especially for the very young, is amplified by the reward or punishment motive.  They’re told of an unblinking eye that watches them all year ’round, and knows if they have been “naughty or nice.”

Long before young minds figure out the lie of the generous magical elf myth, they have carved into stone the belief that they have regularly gotten away with lots of stuff all year long.  Either the all seeing eye blinked, or for some reason was being a bit lax at times.  I often wondered how Kris Kringle had missed some of my obvious blunders, but was always glad he did.  I have suspicions that such thoughts are not original on my part.

The doll or the bicycle appears without consideration of the rock thrown at the neighbor’s cat, or of the piece of candy that made its way out of the store without first visiting the cash register.  The hateful gesture made while Mother’s back was turned evidently went unnoticed, along with a series of thoughts unfit for open discussion.

Just imagine a “once upon a time” kind of place where a culture of men behaved properly towards each other without supervision. They had no need of policing each other.  I’m having trouble finding documentation of it in history books, but maybe some of you might remember it, or live in such a place even now, though I doubt it.  As close as it may have come to that were the aboriginal people of North and South America.  Conquering Europeans thought it odd that these “natives” were so uncivilized as to have never found a need for prison systems.  And with a religious fervency, the conquerers set about to revise this misconception in a most loving way with bullets and swords.

How about you, personally?  Do you think your behavior requires that you to be monitored by police or standing armies? Think about your answer carefully.  Many of you reading this right now consider yourself a moral person, and that the monitoring is for all the other folks who are not.  What if everybody felt that way?  What if it was true?

Well, it isn’t.  There are those who do not steal from each other because they believe security (the person from whom they’d take, the police, God, Santa Claus, Mama, etc.) is watching, and there are those who won’t because they believe it would not be the right thing to to.  Is it what you think you’ve gotten away with that bothers your conscience, is it only that a fear of getting caught would cause such a bother?  From what we see by example even in high places, getting caught seems to be the mother of remorse and apology.

If the goodness of your heart is dependent on your compliance to a rule that says you should not get caught doing otherwise, shall I trust you?  How about that person who is committed to want to do the right thing whether anybody else is looking or not?  Can we always depend on what people tell us motivates them, or is it wise to make an assessment of there actions?  If a man behaves honorably, I will trust him to be honorable.  If a man tells me he is honorable, I’ll watch him like a hawk.  All that being said, for most of my life, I’ve deserved a fair amount of watching.  Because of that and not because of anything you’ve done personally that I know of, I tend to keep an eye peeled.

I find it odd that once a year, Ebenezer Scrooge is seen as a man of misplaced values, while the rest of the time, he’s likely to be seen as a role model.  Even now, those employed by Mr. Scrooge know that the spirit of giving needs to be strongly reinforced in the minds of the customers, or else Bob Cratchit’s end of the year tally could cost him his job.  For Mr. Scrooge, it could be just a matter of how he keeps score.  But for Mr. Cratchit, it might be a matter of life and death.  If you remember, Tiny Tim was not covered by insurance.

 

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11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Betty on November 23, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    as usual, well done!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Robin South on November 23, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    A damn fine Christmas sermon. I love your description of an honorable man. Wish one would run for any elected office. I believe most men that run for their first elected office are close to honorable. Once elected they become politicians to “get things done.” There goes their honorable status.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Mickey Foster on November 23, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    I have read many of your musings…I have laughed, I have agreed, and I have attempted to respond to some, only hoping to lace my responses with a wee bit of the creativity that spouts in torrents from your pen. This particular essay caused some rusting wheels to turn….no doubt that we do teach our children more about receiving than about giving and sharing. As for the jolly fat elf..I am certain that all of us somehow managed to avoid his unblinking eye.. did we learn early on that the watchful eye is a myth but the presents under the tree are real? I am not sure what that meaning translates to, but, as for me, I try to be good. However, I am for certain that I need monitoring simply because I cannot say for sure how I will react to unknown circumstances..I just know for certain that I try to respect other folks…sometimes it is much easier to respect their property than it is to respect their thoughts and ideas..I know that I would not steal tangible things from my neighbors, but if I like a thought or an idea, well, that is another story. And, if I do not like their thoughts or ideas it tends to become easy to not like the person…I battle this quite frequently…now I am rambling..but I will qualify for Medicare in one more year……

    Reply

  4. Posted by Marlene Humberd on November 23, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Like most people I try to be good and to treat people the way I want to be treated .That’s the way I was raised .~ But I do remember quite vividly the one time I stole something . ~ I had walked to the grocery to get milk for Momma and had exactly the right amount of money to pay for it .~ Standing in the check-out line , I suddenly had a craving for gum . Why…I don’t know ? All I know is I slipped a pack in my jeans pocket and left the store . ~Walking home …chewing a piece of gum …feeling sicker and sicker. By the time I got to our driveway ,I was ready to throw up, and that gum felt as large as a basketball in my mouth .~ I spit out the gum , got money out of my bank , and went back to the store . I told Mr. Johnson what I had done, gave him the money , and the rest of the pack . After a little lecture , he told to go home and not to do it again .~ To this day , I do not know if he ever told my Momma . She never said anything, and I was too ashamed of myself to ever ask . ~ So at the ripe old age of 9, I learned the hard way that only I am responsible for my actions and whatever consequences . And BTW, I still can’t chew spearmint gum ! Thanks, Mr. Brown-Twain ….

    Reply

  5. Posted by WD Parris on November 23, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Van, I always thought it odd to think we should be good in this life, not because it was the right thing to do, but because of a reward or punishment we would receive in the next life. On the other hand, due to the human tendency toward self serving we may just need some kind of motivation. Amen. Now let’s pass the offering plate.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Brett on November 23, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Van,
    Two responses come to my mind after reading this. One, the idea of being good because of a law. Perhaps it is just me, I don’t know, but I have repeatedly broken the laws of the land. I never actually followed any law until I saw either the rationale behind it or perhaps what evil it may perpetrate on others. I try to teach my boys when they do wrong, the reasoning behind it, not just the consequence of punishment. Generally, I have found this to be a far more effective deterrent than fear, as it has always worked well in my own life.
    Two, the idea that Scrooge is looked up to for the most part of the year. I think if you consider his industry, work ethic those attributes can be looked up to and for the most part I believe are high attributes to have. I don’t think anyone looks up to a bitter miser who hordes the best of himself at any time of the year. I think it is essential, and if you think about it, inherently selfish to promote others with high values, because in the end they benefit you anyway. Just a thought.

    Reply

  7. Amen Van Amen! It is a season when we reflect on everything including life itself..While we are waiting to hear if or what kind of cancer my husband has we had the first Thanks giving with family (almost whole) in years and maybe hoping not the last with him so it is with heavy heart that I post this nothing is more important than life not house, cars, salary..but good health, family, great friends…is what I will be thankful for this year…Christmas has always been centered in this family as Jesus’s Birthday and gifts from Santa and each other are a symbol of the gift God gave to us in his son and the gifts the kings gave to the christ child ..may you have a blessed and wonderful Christmas Season..
    Linda Revels

    Reply

  8. Posted by little d on November 24, 2012 at 1:23 am

    VanTwain, Thank you again for taking the moments required to put your thoughts into words, and allowing us to access them. Its seems simple enough, but if it was, your words wouldn’t carry the Iron they do, nor would they stand alone in unbridled logic as I commonly find them. There would be no need in continuing to question, for the answers would have become a bore.

    But that’s not what I frequently find elsewhere, in print or conversation. Some where in time the gift of qualified thinking among People was lost to a Trojan Horse wrapped in sparkling blankets. A adorable gift made affordable to everyone so as none would not receive it. I like not to think about how easily a prewrapped belief became of more value than wrapping logic around reason. But I’m sure that it did, and possible more so today than when it was premeditated.

    Who-Mans, they’ve given little thought to themselves. They hold a key that fits a lock to such an opportunity as perhaps no other specie has ever before. They are born of a process that manufactures immortality as standing protocol, and still hope to live forever elsewhere where the trumpet sounds down the golden brick roads.

    I could go on, but in short we’ve only just become, and underlying our seemingly modern ways wrapped in fraud and falsehood, is truly a present of what we will be another time. Twain was right about so much, lets hope the blush will not suffice longer.

    thanks again for your moments, and may Peace be with you all.

    little d

    Reply

  9. Excellent and amen! I’ve heard it said true character is how one behaves when no one is looking. Thank you for your thoughts and musings. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

    Reply

  10. I don’t particularly need policing. That’s for the idiots. Unfortunately, there have been times in my life when I WAS the idiot. So in that event, I must remain policed.

    Reply

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