Friday, December 23, 2011

One of my favorite Khristmas specials starts with the line, "In all this world, there is nothing so beautiful as a happy child." The special is "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus," based on the book of the same name by L. Frank Baum. I love the sense of magic and the feel of a complete, original mythology in L. Frank Baum's version of the story of Santa Claus. It always makes me uncomfortable when Santa Claus mythology is combined with Christian mythology. The two don't really fit together. And while I enjoy movies like The Santa Clause (starring Tim Allen), there is a flippant quality to the mythology in them that isn't satisfying. There is something wonderful and deeply true about the way that the Sesame Street Khristmas special and the classic letter to Virginia in the New York Sun answer the questions behind the idea of Santa Claus, in a sense, by un-asking them. Very zen. Very true. Nonetheless, I do like to see Santa Claus turned into a story that has a mythological wholeness to it.

This is all beside the point, though. Watching "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" with Elaine this Khristmas, I found myself struck by that first line. I'd never paid overmuch attention to it before. I accepted it as a reasonable-seeming concept, although, it in no way spoke to me. Now that I have a child though, I find that it both speaks to me and that I can no longer accept it as reasonable.

There is a great deal that is beautiful in this world. A happy child is a beautiful thing. But, unless you are a human, biased by the drug-like chemicals that wash over your brain to reward you whenever you see happy infants and children, a happy child doesn't outshine all the other things of great beauty in this world.

A sleeping tiger. The flower-like wings of a deadly preying mantis. Waterfalls. Trees. Snowflakes. Grains of sand, greatly magnified. Two cats playing. A Sheltie prancing in the tall grass of a field. Only humans, under the influence of the drugs generated by their own brains, think that a happy child outshines all these other beauties. Without that peculiarly slanted vision, a happy child is merely a piece of all the other natural beauty in the world we live in.

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