Sunday, 25 December 2011

Keeping Christmas by Henry Van Dyke

I posted this on my old blog last year (or maybe the year before), and I'll probably post it again next year (or maybe the year after). I'm not a religious person, and this comes from a Christmas sermon, but it's one of my favourite things to read and re-read. It gets a little churchy at the end there, but you know what? I think Jesus was a cool guy and I don't mind one bit celebrating him, whether he was ever a real person or not. I'm down with cults of kindness.

There lies in this sermon, as at the heart of that little known philosophy called Christianity, some great advice for making the world a better place. And that's worth hearing without considering the source. Or do consider the source if you like the source. It's your call.

Merry Christmas, every day!




“Keeping Christmas”
by Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933)

It is a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and seasons, when men agree to stop work and make merry together, is a wise and wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over the individual life. It reminds a man to set his own little watch, now and then, by the great clock of humanity which runs on sun time.

But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas.

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellow-men are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness–are you willing to do these things even for a day?
Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open–are you willing to do these things even for a day?
Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world–stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death–and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?
Then you can keep Christmas.


And if you keep it for a day, why not always?
But you can never keep it alone.

(1905)

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Laugh!

What made me laugh this year, hm?

I had kind of shitty year, so there were days when I was in search of things to make me laugh. Here are a few that made me happy and chuckly:

Amy's Blog
And just Amy herself, actually. I "met" Amy on Twitter, and soon after she started her blog, and it is pure awesome. She's extra funny. And we share two boyfriends: Dr. Spencer Reid and Jason Bateman. Yes, that's how cool she is. She shares her imaginary Hollywood boyfriends with me. Only your better Internet friends will do that.

Bo Burnham's YouTube
I know I keep mentioning him. I guess I hope he has a Google alert on his own name, and if he sees my site enough, he'll check it and yadda, yadda, yadda, we'll get married. He'd obviously have to be okay with my aforementioned boyfriends. And, for the record, I would totally share him with Amy, too.

Mark Leyner's Et Tu, Babe
My standby "cheer me up when I'm sad" read used to be Deep Thoughts and Steven Wright quotes. I was introduced to Mark Leyner by the awesome Dr. Stanley Fogel, who taught me more about literary criticism in the few classes I took with him than I learned in the rest of university altogether. You can buy his books here, if you're into that hokey lit crit stuff. Or Cuba. One of them's about Cuba.

Anyhow, the first time I read Et Tu, Babe, I was sitting in the cafe in the Dana Porter library at UW, and I had to leave. I was laughing so hard that I was bothering people. So I went outside, where I laughed until I cried so much that a random passerby asked me if I was okay. This endorsement is ringing.


My Kids
I don't have a link for them, but you sure should wish you knew them. They're awesome to the extreme. And SO FUNNY. And not just in a "Oh, that's so cute, did you hear how stupid what she said was?" kind of way. They have amazing senses of humour and prodigious comedic timing. Bria's mind goes at a mile a minute all the time, and she floors me with how fast she can think of a witty retort or zingy one-liner. Marissa has sarcasm nailed better than any five year old I've ever heard of, and even I envy her deadpan.

And, yes, sometimes they just say or do things that are funny because kids do weird shit.


***


Okay, that's it. I mean, sure, other things probably made me laugh. Life just kinda makes me laugh, which is something I'm very grateful for. I hope I never take life so seriously that I don't see how beautifully absurd it is anymore. But when I do have those days when I'm just too pissed off or disappointed to smile, these are the things that turned my frown upside down.

Maybe they can do the same for you. Except not my kids. Get your own. Unless you're really young or incredibly irresponsible or sociopathic or otherwise not fit to be a parent. Then just maybe stick with the blog and the youtube and the book.

Monday, 5 December 2011

I like pleasure spiked with pain. Pain of guilt, that is.

This is Day Five of Reverb11, but I don't blog on weekends, so I missed two, and I'm not going to go back because I didn't have good answers for them anyway.

Today's prompt was to list 5 guilty pleasures. That's difficult for me because I don't really feel guilty about too many pleasures. I mean, as I understand it, these are things that you wouldn't want people to know you enjoy, right?

These are the best I could do. Five things I enjoy that I don't normally want people to know about:

1. Ice Cream from the Carton
I pretty much eat ice cream exclusively from the carton. I don't like it in a bowl. Sometimes I even put toppings on it right in the carton. I just think that's how it's meant to be done.

2. My Sleeping Bag
I've got this sleeping bag that I bought in Australia in 1999 for a camping trip. It's the most amazing bed companion I've ever known. I sleep in it almost every night. I will be intensely sad when it withers into bare threads. And I will use it until then. Sometimes in the middle of the day, I tell my kids I'm just going to the bathroom, and I go get into my sleeping bag for a few minutes. It's like my happy place and a safe warm hug all rolled into one. And I'm the filling.

3. Baaaaaad Movies
I love really, really bad made-for-TV movies. Not B-movies (although I like those, too) but really, truly terrible, boring movies with insipid, awkward dialogue and mediocre acting. I love them. Especially on a Sunday afternoon in the winter. I love seeing mics in the frame, and not caring at all about atrocious inconsistencies, and feeling like if I fall asleep, I'm not going to miss anything.

4. Twitter
Most of the people who will read this are probably Twitterers anyway, so maybe you get it. I feel some shame over my Twitter usage. Mine's excessive and could probably use some curbing, so maybe you don't get it because you're a normal person who just tweets a normal amount.

5. Drinking Alone
I don't get drunk when I'm alone, but I enjoy having a beer all by myself at home. I don't know why, really. Something about it just feels very relaxing. I feel kind of like I'm not supposed to drink alone, though. That's a rule, isn't it?


So what I'm saying, basically, is that my perfect day is a Sunday in my sleeping bag, watching bad movies, sipping a cold beer, eating ice cream from the carton, and tweeting about it. And actually, that does sound pretty damn awesome.

I feel like this post was extraordinarily boring, probably because I just answered the question and talked about myself, and I'm pretty boring. Next time I'll just ramble incoherently again.

Friday, 2 December 2011

I meet a lot of people, but so far no fairy tale endings.

I know! I just blogged and you're all like, "Ahh, I can't take anymore of this fabulous in(s)anity!" But look, DEAL WITH IT, okay, because I'm behind and I need to catch up or else risk humiliation in front of some of the greatest blogging minds in the 'verse.

So, Reverb11 daily prompt #2, here we go!
There are several lists floating around of prompts, so I got all of these:
1. Who did you meet?
2. Who are you? Describe yourself.
3. Recall a fairy tale-esque moment from 2011. 

So, here's the thing. I am a person who does not believe in fairy tales, except the Grimm kind. That actually describes me pretty well and broadly if you apply it to all areas of life. I don't believe in love at first sight, I don't believe that your suffering will be rewarded with happiness, and I don't believe that chipmunks will make my bed while birds do my hair every morning. Even though my hair usually looks like I let chipmunks do it.

So that takes care of two questions. I'm so fricking good at this!!

This is the most I believe in fairy tales: coincidences can sometimes lead to awesome things happening, and that relates to the people I've met. I met SO MANY people this year. For me, anyway, it was a lot. Most of the people I met are folks whose existence I originally came to be aware of through the miracle of the interwebs, and more specifically, Twitter.

Because I don't get out much. Actually, that's not true, I do get out kind of a lot. But I go out with my friends, and to be honest, we're a bit cliquey, and when we meet other people, I look at them and think, "You are nowhere near as awesome as my current friends, and therefore, I shall not speak to you, as I already have them here to talk to." My inner monologue is curt, but proper.

So I do get out much, but I also stay in much. And it's nice to have company and/or a place to toss random thoughts against the binary wall and see which ones stick. And then sometimes there are people to whom many thoughts stick, and theirs also stick to me, and they become almost like friends. And sometimes even I, though I do not exactly play it fast and loose with the word friend, would call some of those people actual friends.

And I dare not list any or I'll undoubtedly forget someone, but needless to say, there are people whose presence in my life has enriched it greatly, and I would miss them if they were gone. This is where I want to say "You know who you are" because when people say that, even on the Oscars, I pretend they mean me. So, go ahead if you like, and pretend I mean you. Maybe I do. If you're someone who's reading this, I probably really do mean you anyway.

I am the master of answering these extremely personal questions without actually revealing anything of a personal nature, aren't I? Years of practice, yo. These things don't come naturally.

Purgatorium

Pretend I posted this yesterday. I was going to, and then I fell asleep. It happens.

I'm blogging for Reverb11. Reverb is a thing where you get a blogging prompt every day of the month through December, and you're supposed to (I think) reflect on the year gone by in response to said prompt. I didn't do it last year, or any other year, but I've been a blog-slacker for months, so I figured what the hey, let's do it.

The first prompt was to sum up your 2011 in one word. So here's mine:

PURGATORY

Certain aspects of my life are now dead and gone, and I'm stuck in the Waiting Place, which if you're up on your Seuss, you know is a terrible place. But that's where I am. I'm very in-between things right now. If someone said to me, "So tell me about yourself," I'd have to say, "Oh, I'm actually in-between selfs right now. Yeah, lost the old self--recession and all--but really looking forward to moving on to a new self. Lots of irons in the fire for a new self."

Which would be an utter lie. There are no irons. I don't think there are even any fires. But there will be, I'm sure. In 2012. Because purgatory has to END eventually. You can't just be stuck at the starting line forever. Eventually the pistol fires, and you're off, and you know what? That actually sounds like a lot of work. Scratch that metaphor. Eventually, the hot tub lid gets taken off and you get to sit in it sipping margaritas and listening to Enya. Ahhhh... that's better. Relaxing!

I figured since Purgatory was going to be my word for the entire year, I should learn some things about it. So I quote that great oracle of all things knowable, Wikipedia:

Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, it is believed, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven.
I like this word even better now, for the following reasons:

  1. It is a process of purification, which means that I should come out the other side of 2011 a better person, and by golly, I think I already have. I've grown and matured emotionally, as one is wont to do when one's limits are tested. And one's were. I've learned to control my temper, I've developed greater self-discipline, and I've learned to let go of things both emotional and physical. And I even gave up sex. Sex! That's pretty pure!

  2. It is also temporary punishment, which as far as I'm concerned means the universe and I are all squared up for everything I've ever done wrong. Right? That's how it works. Trust me. And though I say that in jest, I probably did spend the last year having my mistakes catch up and wreak consequence on my life, so it fits like a sock. What? Those tend to fit much snugger than gloves.

  3. I have to have died in a state of grace.

    Unrelated: do you know what happens when you study a lot of lit from around the 16th century? You just automatically associate the verb 'to die' with sex. Because they did. Like when Benedick says, "I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes" which is very romantic, and I quite like it, he doesn't mean he's going to cease to live while on her legs. He means... you get it. Anyhow, dying in a state of grace is lovely either way.

    For our purposes, let's say that I lived up until 2011 in a state of grace. We won't talk any more about the dying.

  4. I AM BEING MADE READY FOR HEAVEN.

    I thought you could go from purgatory to hell. I didn't know you for sure got to go to Heaven. So if this is purgatory, then... Next stop, ENLIGHTENED BLISS! Which would be lovely. I've done ignorant bliss, and I've done enlightened. I would like to take the best of both worlds and have enlightened bliss.  I do so look forward to 2012.
So there you have it. My 2011 was Purgorative. It was Purgatorific. It was Purgatorrisome. No, I don't think there's a subjective complement there. It was purgatory.