Somewhere along the line, somebody said “Don’t confuse fiction with reality.”
It sounded wonderfully clearcut, something you could be sure of. But it is not as simple as it sounds. There is open and shut reality. Did you drop the teapot ? Yes or no. There lie the broken pieces: how did they get there ?
And then there is all the other stuff … was the teapot cracked ? did you slip because you were trying to save the old cat from disturbance by the new dog, the baby from putting his hand on the hot stove ? Did you really hear a noise, turn and slip, dropping the teapot
…. If the teapot is broken, does it matter how it became broken ? Perhaps you will not admit that you threw it at the floor in temper.
Instead of making life clear and simple for me (fat chance), reality and its multiples shade between something real and something imagined, to something totally imagined, to something unreal but chosen and played through as a reality, inevitably coloured by what is remembered. Endlessly fascinating.
It’s a week to one of the two biggest festivals in the Christian Church and Christianity is about to become a minority religion. Of course this finding emerges from research which is the philosophical equivalent of Play Doh
ie you can bend it to any shape you like. Do we really hope that by lining up a full set of symbols (tree and lights, trimming, tinsel, food plus and drink plus plus, presents, extravagance – blame the Victorians) we will enter the spirit of the story of the Baby in the Manger ? Does it matter ? Is it just a blowout and a couple of days off, “the kids like it”, expensive certainly but complete with comforting mythology about Santa Claus and the Snowman ?
Christmas is about memory
– how it was when you were a child, what was done at home, how far behind you left that or how closely you adhere to it. Christmas is about herding together – in family units, crowds to shop, to see lights and trees and fireworks, safety in numbers, the crowd at the match or the press at the bar. And it is widely inferred that, somehow, if you aren’t part of all that, you have missed out. But that isn’t a reality, it is a perception, a way of looking at having a break and a nice time.
This year, the reality is fear. Not fear of Covid though it is an unpleasant bug. But the fear of catching what you can’t see
and how that will affect all those other things which would draw you temporarily but none the less powerfully into community of some kind. My son has Covid. I have just seen a neighbour off to be tested – he thinks he has Covid. I have spent Christmas alone before. I do not see it as a failure. It happens. The fiction is “lots of friends” and the reality is the half dozen max. who play quite different roles in your life and worth more than jewels.
And the reality is what you hear in the sleepiness and silence. Different kinds of silence, different kinds of sleep. It’s been horrible shopping this year because so many of the small individualised places are threatened or gone. The largely unnoticed floods in London in the late summer have wiped out the kind of places I love and cherish and buy things in. What might happen has made many of us wary.
Like everything else in the world, Christmas is personal. If you were brought up to numbers in celebration , for holiday or hobbies, then that is what you’ll miss. Or you’re unwilling to miss it and you’ll take the risk with or without precautions. I was brought up to take it as it comes, with respect, whether the few or the many.
My reality includes warmth, food, shelter above me, door to lock, telephone, cards, one or two new books and another year of cherished friendship, casual meetings, and annalog readers, that small cherished public, I bless you every one – for yourselves and for keeping me to what I call my “homework” – weekly writing – and your response to it.