martes, 24 de diciembre de 2013

Santa Lives!

The figure of Santa Claus is shrouded in mystery and contradiction. Well before the founding of the Christian Church, men (and women, if the men let them go outside) would gaze up at the heavens during the bleakest, longest nights of the year and wail, although probably not in English, “Who will deliver us from this endless wintry gloom? What can sustain us through the long nights ahead besides heavy drinking, the worship of moss, and staring at endless reruns of the Bronze Age equivalent of Law & Order?” Then would every heart beat with a single desire and every voice give utterance to the same wish: “Isn’t there some big fat man up there who can come down here and give me free stuff?"

In response to such universal human longing, Santa Claus appears. And yet, from the first, he is a figure of controversy. It begins with his very name: Santa, scholars tell us, is the feminine form of the Spanish/Italian/Portuguese word for “saint.” But Claus is a masculine Nordic/Germanic name. Is Santa Claus a girl with a boy’s name or a boy with a girl’s name or what? It’s worse than Leslie or Alex! No wonder, then, that when we (henceforth, by “we” I will mean not only those of us in the intellectual elite but everyone else, too!) first think of Santa Claus, we think of a hermaphrodite. And no wonder that, when we ask ourselves where he’s from, we instantly decide: Switzerland, where everyone is half Italian and half German and half French, where the boys wear dresses and learn to curtsy, where the girls smoke pipes and en- joy a good arm wrestle, and which is home to the high- est percentage of Swiss hermaphrodites in the world. And yet, no matter how often we repeat to one another, “Santa Claus is a Swiss hermaphrodite,” it is never fully credible, never entirely satisfying. Then we are shown the familiar figure in the red suit, and we don’t know what to think. 

But that is only the beginning of our dilemma. If he (if indeed he is a “he”) is Santa Claus, how can he also be, as he is alternatively called, Saint Nicholas? Or Fa- ther Christmas? Or Père Noel? And exactly where does the modern world get off calling him the vulgar, overly familiar Saint Nick? How, in any reasonable universe, can a Christian saint be named Nick? What next? Saint Chet? Saint Tiffany? And what’s with “Kris Kringle”? Isn’t that a brand of doughnuts? Still, at the end of the day—or, more accurately, of the year—we manage to reconcile ourselves to living with these and other unresolved issues. Christmas, as it always does, comes. We betake to festoon the bowers with gaudy bunting and hoist a schooner high to quaff the foaming wassail, although we haven’t the faintest idea what the hell any of that means. Then we welcome Santa Claus into our homes and our department stores, our malls and our children’s hospitals, our drunken of- fice parties and our drunken Chanukah parties and our drunken Kwanzaa parties. Or rather—and we know this all too well, no matter how strenuously we pretend to believe otherwise—we welcome not Santa Claus himself but “Santa Claus,” i.e., a stand-in, a make- believe substitute for the real Claus. Invariably this ersatz Santa—usually embodied by a classroom father, a pediatric resident, or Tyler, the numbskull in Purchasing—dispatches his duties ade- quately, distributing presents and frightening children, embarrassing everyone and “good-naturedly” groping teachers, nurses, and secretaries, sometimes all at once. And yet, throughout, we are haunted by a perennially unresolved question: Is there an actual personage upon whom all these models and impersonations are based? Does Santa Claus actually exist?

The question is as old as civilization itself, and even older if you count early tribal peoples, who just wan- dered around, hunting and gathering and wishing and hoping and bitching and moaning and showing up to stay in places without a reservation. (Hence the impor- tance today of Native American Indian reservations, to redress this grievous lack.) The range of opinions re- garding Clausite existence spans the gamut, from the outright denial of Aclausites (“There is no such thing as Santa Claus.”) to the fervent affirmation of the faith- ful (“Yes there is, and shut up.”). Each side marshals its propositions, refutations, challenges, and “proofs.” And yet, after just under six-point-two jillion years of human history, neither side has so far been able to dis- suade the other, leaving both entrenched in their re- spective positions. Can the deadlock be broken? Can the matter be re- solved once and for all? And can it be done in a way that takes full advantage of the burgeoning market for mildly “spiritual” works that offend no one and make everyone feel great (even Jews)? Can it mention chicken soup, angels, Heaven, a day of the week, an old guy’s nickname, and “code” in the title? I believe that it can, except for the title part. (And even with that, I tried. This work’s original title was Thursdays with Izzie in Heaven: Santa Claus, Angels, and the Chicken Soup Code. My priggish and short- sighted editor made me change it.) I hope, by bringing together all the most persuasive and enduring argu- ments in favor of Santa’s existence, to prove conclu- sively that Santa Claus is a living presence, a gift-toting, reindeer-whipping reality.

Of course some will wonder, why undertake such a project? For those who believe Santa exists, no proof is necessary; for those who do not, no proof is sufficient. The answer, as it always is whenever someone wants to justify publicly doing something for their own private purposes, is: for the children. (...) If every child on earth were to buy a copy of this book (after its translation into eighty-three languages and a print run into the hundreds of millions), and read it, and derive hope from it, I would be content. But if they don’t? Then let it be purchased for them by an entire generation of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, coaches, clergymen, pediatricians, so- cial workers, babysitters, and well-meaning strangers. Let them purchase it for the same reason that I have written it: for the children. Someone will say, “Yes, but I am Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, or of some other religion for which the figure of Santa Claus is at best a pathetic and risible fiction. Why should I care about, and purchase, the present work?” To him or her I say: The issue of Santa Claus’s existence has ramifications that extend far beyond the interest of any particular religion or spiritual world- view. If Santa Claus exists, then he exists for all of us.
If, on Christmas Eve, he truly does bring presents for good little Christian boys and girls, then he is available to bring presents to everyone else, including good little non-Christian boys and girls and big, bad grownups, on the other 364 days of the year. Someone will say, “Well, then, why doesn’t he?” Perhaps because he hasn’t been asked. Why has he not been asked? Because in order to ask something of someone, you first have to believe that that someone ex- ists. That is why I have written this work. Plus for the children.

Ellis Weiner, Santa Lives!
Five Conclusive Arguments for the Existence of Santa Claus

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