Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Plate of Fudge, a Bowl of Chili and Thou . . .

Because he was scrubby and dirty they took him in . . .

And because he was so dirty,  they named him “Harry.”

This Christmas, act like a Christian.

Uh-uhhh, I didn’t say be a Christian, your kneecaps squashed on a cold hard floor, your hands steepled, eyes rolled in gooey piety. No prayers at all are always better than insincere ones.

I mean act with grace, openness, generosity, tolerance, forgiveness. Pull in your teeth and claws for once, just for awhile (yeah, I know it’s hard).  I have supped full of rage and here, a little self-denial is called for.

Christianity may not have been precisely first with the ideas mentioned above, but it was the first to synthesize them into a general philosophy in western civilization, a stance toward life, the world, society and the lonely individual that runs like subtle wine through so much that even most fundamentalist atheists pay inadvertent tribute to them (and bless Christopher Hitchens’ peppery serrated soul; I hope he’s enjoying a Nice Surprise about now.)

A digression: if you read the Four Gospels (especially the three "synoptic" gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke) you will find, among very very few rich and powerful people;  the vast majority of characters are grubby peasants, bent-backed farmers, battered whores, criminal low-lifes and drunken bums; and when rich folk are mentioned, it is not in complimentary fashion.

You will also learn that Jesus was neither sulfurous fire-spitting Pat Robertson nor a boring Nice White Guy from Minnesota who looks just like Willem Dafoe.

Not only that . . . they called him a BASTARD!

Now I’ve always loved Christmas, a stand offensive to anhedonics (who would be bummed out if I took the opposite tack anyway: “You’re just pandering to me, you phony.”).

But like many, I loathe the insulting heretical Über-Capitalist’s Holiday; a miserable, moneyed tyranny, supported by Fox News propaganda, where WalMart is the True Church; where even Ebenezer Scrooge looks heroically wise and monkish in his self-denial. All the color is a mere fig leaf for a desperate materialism. It’s Target we kneel and pray to.

If you really want to rebel against Christmas, to avoid both the trap of Wal-Mart and the barrenness of Scrooge (as these Christians do), try the following:

Be a cheapskate. Instead of buying that $200 Popeil potato masher, even if it is for the person you love most in the world (the damn thing will just break after they slice off their fingers anyway), instead buy your Someone their favorite food, drink or even a charming little what not; something that will bring more than temporary delight, that will carve deeper than an electric carving knife. A book would be nice.

Or, if they're a real friend, like this guy, you can send them a holiday card loaded with the most vile, spectacular and funniest insults your imagination can conjure. (Thirty years going and he still loves me for it.)

Another friend of ours from a certain somewhere tells us he and his family go dirt cheap on gifts; so cheap that the first question they ask on receipt is “How much did it cost?” Instead, they blow their budget on the best food and the best drink and bury their faces in the dining room table. I find this deeply appealing (and screw the Health Nazis; they’re nearly as bad as WalMart). There’s a companionship in sharing food and sparkling conversation that the complete DVD set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer can never capture.

Another thing to do: If you happen to go outside (this is the Internet Age after all), store some of your cash in a convenient pocket. Then, if you run into a needy person, give some to them, with no conditions and no questions. Loyal readers of Bay Area columnist Jon Carroll know this as the “Untied Way.” He recommends $20 bills . . . but any amount will do. And throw in a smile.

That really could be you hovering over that gutter someday. It was once almost me.

Then stop by your favorite drinking establishment, coffeehouse, or tavern, and buy a round for one or everyone (difficult for me this year, as I’m on extremely limited alcohol intake, doctor’s orders.)

In other words, try and keep it simple, as simple as a Bethlehem manger of sweet legend, though maybe a little warmer.

Sometimes a plate of fudge, a bowl of chili and thou is all I need.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and see you all in the New 2012.

(re-edited 12/19/11)

Copyright 2011 by Thomas Burchfield

Photo by Author

Thomas Burchfield has recently completed his 1920s gangster thriller Butchertown. He can be friended on Facebook, followed on Twitter, and read at Goodreads. You can also join his e-mail list via tbdeluxe [at] sbcglobal [dot] net. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Elizabeth.


Anonymous said...

"This Guy" sez: No rich wing nuts in the gospels. Best sermon I've ever heard. Good reason to give it all away. I say locusts and wild honey forever.

Thomas Burchfield said...

Thanks, This Guy! JC also comes across as kind of flinty-eyed and quite humorous witty with those parables and all. Really strict on issues such as divorce and keeping your word. And forgiveness.

Julie Schauer said...

Nicely stated. Happy New Year!

Thomas Burchfield said...

Thanks, Julie!