We’re funny, in a way. If our day is less than perfect, if we have cross words with a spouse or friend, if we get sour cream on our brand new outfits or orange juice on our ties, we tell ourselves, “Well ain’t that just my luck, goddammit ” (or words to that effect) and we turn to the next piece of business before us.
If, however, it happens on Thanksgiving (or Christmas or on a wedding day or a birthday or St. Valentine’s Day or an anniversary, etc.) we then wail, “My perfect day is ruined! What a tragedy!” and we wring our hands over it and brood all the following day, or even week. We look to our friends for consolation—‘Gee, that’s a shame… and on Thanksgiving, too… golly!’
What’s funny is that we expect troubles to trip us up or darken our laughter—we know we can rarely have a so-called Perfect day. Indeed, if too many things go right as the day progresses, we start to fill with a spooky dread. We are quite sure that if all these lights are green and we got a good seat at the diner and our boss just gave us a raise and that jerk from the mail room finally got fired for spilling his cola on everyone’s mail—that the balance of the universe will not rest until we have been nailed in the ass by Karma.
One of the most frightening things in the world is perfection—if everything’s easy and nothing bars our path to the brass rings of our days, we can be certain that it will eventually balance out. Every little victory becomes a threat to our future and the bigger that balance gets, the more likely the payback will be a living hell.
So, we know that things go wrong. Things go wrong every day. Nevertheless, we insist on beating ourselves up about an imperfect holiday gathering (or, worse yet, blame those around us for ‘ruining’ the day). Mr. Spock would undoubtedly point out that a super-bowl party or a family reunion, having far more details and complications, is logically even more assured of having problems than a regular day.
So please, everybody, let the holiday be ruined—bow to the inevitable dust-ups and flubs—and try to remember that the point of a holiday is the spirit of the thing. Keep in mind that nothing is truly spoilt unless it kills our spirit.
Well, our Thanksgiving was pretty subdued, what with Claire’s dad’s recent passing—but I did manage to space out on telephoning my mom to wish her a happy Thanksgiving. And here it is Friday night and I still haven’t called.
There is an infinite imbalance in our existence. Perhaps you’re familiar with the definition of ‘running’ as leaning forward, taking a step to stop us from falling, continuing to lean forward, as we take step after step—in a sense, running is the process of starting to fall and catching ourselves over and over. If this sounds fishy to you, do what I did—I tried to run while standing up straight—it can’t be done.
Our biological workings are no less unstable—we breathe in oxygenated air, and exhale CO2 air and we mustn’t stop. Blood circulates endlessly, picking up oxygen at the lungs and nutrients from the digestive tract, then dropping off toxins and waste as it passes through our livers and kidneys. That chemical reaction must be ever ongoing, as must the heart’s cycling of the blood itself. We are a conglomeration of never-ending lab experiments, in a sense.
The universe, too, is a virtually infinite, slow-motion explosion of mass/energy that seems reliable and unchanging to us only because our lifetimes are mere sparks, single twinkles that end nearly as they begin. Our Earth is also considered pretty unchanging (although we have lately become somewhat more aware of the changeable nature of the physical world we live in).
In short, nothing stands still. We stand on a sphere that spins a full 360 degrees every twenty-four hours—and streaks a circle around the sun every 364 days or so—while a smaller sphere spins and circles us, causing tides and other periodic phenomena. Our bodies are simultaneously breaking-down and building-up chemical compounds in an effort to maintain a sort of time-release decrepitude that begins as soon as we have done our ‘breeding’—just like all the other animals in the zoo. Now that I mention it, humanity is itself a constantly shifting amalgam of Birth and Death, with Awake and Asleep dividing each of the Earth’s spins into two very different states, and with Work and Play fighting for their halves of the ‘Awake’ term.
And yet the clock crawled by almost imperceptibly last night, in a rare instance of me idling through the hours. The face in my mirror is the same as yesterday’s. We perceive the fourth dimension, Time, as a ceaselessly flowing river that our minds travel along in a single direction. And what we think of as ‘time’ is as much a mystery as it is a constant, as subjective as it is irrefutable.
This is why only those of us who paid attention in school are aware of just how confused and chaotic our societies, ourselves, and our minds truly are. I have often been dismayed at my image, that of a ‘know-it-all’, when I’m really a ‘know-it’s-all-unknown’. I have, however, become comfortable with my ignorance— I’ve reasoned that the world would never inspire such ecstasy and terror (and everything in between) if it were something simple enough for us to understand. I can’t even learn to knit—why should I think I have the intelligence to understand the universe?
And, while I’m loathe to interrupt this civilized essay with controversy, I must add that I’ve always thought that, since we can’t begin to understand our world or ourselves, what could we possibly be thinking when we claim to understand the will of who-or-what-ever created our universe? That’s just nonsensical.
Thus, for the holidays, retain that ‘calm in the face of chaos’ that we use to get through our everyday days—there’s nothing to be gained by expecting the holidays to be perfect. It’s far more important that they be merely special.