13 December 2007

It's only out of habit

The dusting of new snow and the dense fog formed an icy, opaque blanket over downtown Bishkek this morning and I suddenly became aware that “Winter Wonderland” was coursing though my head. I’d lasted until the 13th of December. That’s not too bad, I thought.

Christmas is not widely celebrated in this largely Muslim nation, so I managed to avoid any TV gift advertisements, human-interest news stories, or Yuletide decorations until early December. That’s good, I thought. But Christmas is effectively hardwired into my psychological circuitry. It’s not just the cultural dimensions from having been overexposed to the absurd marriage attempt between excessive consumption and Christian theology. I’m not sure it’s possible for me to resolve that contradiction in any way that’s halfway comfortable, so I don’t try anymore.

“I was watching Jimmy Cagney in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” this morning on TCM,” I told a friend later in the day. “I have gone out of my way time and time again to understand Broadway musicals, but I know I am constitutionally incapable of appreciating them on any level because I think they are fundamentally stupid. I have similar feelings about Christmas. I no longer feel any need to appreciate it. When I do feel the urge, I realize that it’s only out of habit, not need.”

However, it impossible to be unaware that something major is happening in the larger world. The days feel like they are melting away to nothing more than an extended pause in the darkness. There was no sun today, none yesterday, nor the day before. The solstice is the 21st but the perception of the shortest day lags a few days. Then, almost imperceptibly, the corner is negotiated and the light, bit by bit, returns.

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