December 27, 2005

On Christmas/Nativity/Navidad

Christmas is like hurtling through space at ten thousand miles an hour, then landing in an ocean in a watertight capsule --- you run frantic for about thirty-two days, then burst into Christmas Day to float around, numb, experiencing everything through the clear plastic of your materialistic stupor. Or am I the only one who does that?

Of course, Christmas the American holiday is something completely different from Nativity (or Navidad, letís say --- itís Spanish and sounds prettier). And while I had a very nice Christmas this year, I canít say I had a great Navidad. I did good on buying presents (and hooking up my momís new DVD player in a reasonable amount of time) and getting presents, but I really havenít had any perceptible awareness of the stunning reality of God as a baby.

I went with my parents to an 11:00 Christmas Eve service at their very large, very (very) Protestant church, and when I found out there would be communion, I froze. There was something off about it --- taking communion in a setting in which I was neither a part of the congregation nor was there a very strong sense of mysteryÖI just couldnít do it. So, after a swirl of indecisive emotions, instead of going down front to get grape juice and a wafer, I stayed in my pew. My dad took it personally, like I was protesting going to service with him instead of going to Nativity liturgy at St. Antony like I wanted, and my brother thought I was being a snob. I came home and fixed an eggnog a little heavy on the rum, but it tasted gross, so I fixed another, rumless glass.

I guess what Iím saying here is that my Nativity spirituality this year was much like my everyday spirituality: hit and miss, distinctly sucky, feeling that I should be experiencing something completely different and that itís entirely my own fault that Iím not.

Anyway, even though I didnít have a powerful Navidad, Christmas was quite alright. I got a book called Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman. Hereís a great quote:

I have countless friends who describe themselves as ďcynical,Ē and theyíre all wrong. True cynics would never classify themselves as such, because it would mean that they know that their view of the world is unjustly negative; despite their best efforts at being grumpy, a self-described cynic is secretly optimistic about normal human natureÖ.The same goes for any one who claims to be ďcreative.Ē If you describe your personality as creative, it really only means you understand what is perceived to be creative by the world at large, so youíre really just following a rote creative template. Thatís the opposite of creativity. Everybody is wrong about everything, just about all the time.

I commented on this quote to my mom, and she said she completely agreed, that the people who most think of themselves as wise are actually usually the most unwise. She has this friend who likes to pontificate, and in so doing he sounds like an idiot.

So even though I simply donít perform well when it comes to being spiritual, I certainly prefer screwing up to getting things right all the time (or ever), because the second I think IĎm doing great is the second IĎll be doing completely ungreat. BUT, in thinking, ďWell, I must be getting something right because Iím not getting anything right,Ē have I immediately crossed back over into getting things un-right?

Maybe I just shouldnít think about it. Maybe thereís a kind of innocence to Getting It Right.

Bah. Anyway, my mom, despite finding her friendís pearls of wisdom always pretentious and occasionally insane, likes him. Which led me to a certain epiphany: You donít have to like everything about someone to like him or her. Iíve always felt kind of guilty for noticing my friendsí flaws. But being aware of someoneís annoying little idiosyncrasies --- and being annoyed by them --- isnít the same as condemning that person to unquenchable fires of death in your mind. You can love someone and be annoyed by him simultaneously. Itís great.

Anyway, God bless us, every one. If there is spirituality to be found in the mandolin of Chris Thile (of Nickel Creek --- I got his solo CD for Christmas), I shall surely find it. I just hope I donít get anything Right.

Posted by jessica at December 27, 2005 09:55 AM