It is interesting to me that so many morality tales don’t really follow up on the real premise of what they are intended to convey.
For example, in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, we witness Mr. Potter stealing the money left by Uncle Billy in a newspaper. Rather than return the money to its rightful owner, Potter commits larceny, leading to the near-destitution of his main protagonist, George Bailey.
There’s a sickness in the world when goodness triumphs yet evil still slinks away. That’s the predominant theme in another Potter tale, in which Harry Potter must repeatedly battle with the arch-villain Voldemort who uses a variety of methods to reconstitute himself.
Real world evils
In the less fantastical world of actual culture and politics in America, we have a series of events that if studied together represent the reconstitution of evil in its most insidious forms. The assassination of JFK, then RFK, then MLK all represent a Voldemort-like conspiracy to undermine social justice.
The New Mr. Potter
In the modern era we have the stern visage of Dick Cheney to consider (who looks much like Mr. Potter you’ll notice) a man who absolutely refused public accountability in his public service and who has profited mightily from private connections.
Some might call Cheney a hero and a hardass for his worldview. They also credit him and his cohort George W. Bush for combatting terrorism worldwide. But that is a selective take on his actual legacy.
To be a true Cheney admirer you must ignore that fact that he ignored clear warnings about terrorist attacks from government staffers. That led to 9/11, and then the response was to pursue unrelated interests in Iraq, and oil without any real plan for followthrough and followup in the Middle East, other than to back Israel with military might.
The Holy Land
And that leads us back to the Christmas story and how things are faring in the Middle East where Christ was born. It’s a strange and modern predicament that we are the new Roman Empire in the region, demanding taxes from foreign oil and resources for our attempts to govern from afar.
Holy shit, you say? I didn’t think of that? Well, Merry Christmas.
But some people make no apologies about their confusion. They just put it out there for all to see. Who can blame them? It’s pretty hard to separate the real from the fantasy these days. So people make peace any way they can. If Frosty the Snowman shows up in a modern nativity scene, it’s all about comfort and attempts to regain innocence.
Privacy and anachronisms
Now society has to consider, to the best of its ability, the greater context of what privacy actually means to America and the world. Perhaps it means nothing. Maybe we’re trying to make sense of something that no longer makes sense. The entire concept of privacy may be long gone, consumed by our own curiosities and need to be recognized, to get attention, to be loved.
Privacy may be as archaic as riding on a donkey to Jerusalem for a census that may have been fictionalized for the sake of a really good story. The Greatest Story Ever Told.
It comes down to this: we can’t tell the Voldemorts from the George Baileys of the world. It may be impossible. It couldn’t be done in the days of Jesus and it probably can’t be done now. Even the Disciples had no idea what was really going on back them. Jesus called them Stupid for not understanding the meaning of his parables.
But they all kept moving. Nomads in a mad world. Wandering town to town on long treks to help the world figure itself out. The main message was this: We knew Jesus, and he had it all figured out. Listen to us.
Modern age problems
All we still understand is that time marches on. Our economy is lurching ahead while shedding parts and traditions and histories like chunks of metal falling from its haunches. Entire segments of society have been disenfranchised. Technology saves even as it sinks hopes. Spirituality is on the rise while religion appears to wane. It’s an ugly yin and yang.
Yet everyone takes part in Christmas whether they like it or not. It’s a holiday without a home these days. No room at the inn.
Old motels and what they mean
The quaint vision of what America once was is everywhere. Old motels that once served silly little local attractions can’t make a go of it anymore. The silly little local attractions like Kiddieland or whatever else used to innocently amuse us are so frequently abandoned, dismissed by a society that is ravenous for entertainment but unsatisfied by much of what it consumes.
We are like those wandering souls in Pirates of the Caribbean, eaten from the inside out whenever the moonlight strikes us. The main parable of Christianity is that we die to live again. We’re all fucking pirates, if you stop to think about it.
And it is so interesting to pass by an old motel sign, now rusted and barren, and try to imagine who and what once used the place. Was it ever a going franchise? Are we letting our society grow vacant somehow? Is there a warning sign in the motel sign?
All this crossed my mind as I ran a 5-miler on Christmas morning. It’s a longstanding tradition to do so, starting way back in the early 1980s when I was a newlywed who needed to shake the frivolous cobwebs of the previous night’s drinking and eating from my head and body on Christmas morn. Much has changed over the years, and this year especially, with two family members deceased in the past two years. We die to live again. Remember that.
One wonders at the Christmas Story with its tale of imperfected hospitality and a child born in a manger, a crib for a bed. It certainly is a strange tradition that those of us who are Christians celebrate each Christmas season. It all started with “No room at the Inn.”
And in the latter day version of cultural transformation, there is certainly no room at the inn when the inn is closed. Sometimes the traditions we cling to, and that includes the entire construct of societies, are not meant to last. Sure, our cities seem like they’ll last forever, and we run through them in celebration of life. But we are making rude assumptions.
So we do our best. It’s like Sting once sang: When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around.
Nomads by choice
Perhaps that is why some of us chose this nomadic existence of running and riding even when we have a place to rest, or can choose to sleep in a comfortable home. Yet we get up at five a.m. to re-invent ourselves. Born again. It’s our religion at times. Admit it.
On Christmas morning and hundreds of other mornings each year we are out there running and riding to get our minds and spirits together. We uproot ourselves daily in order to be ready for whatever the world throws at us. See you on the road.