Sunday, December 23, 2012

Stealing Christmas

This has to count as the most bizarre story of this, and probably any other Christmas season.

I don’t see why it’s appearing as a New York Times Modern Love column, because it’s a story about how a woman’s adult children managed to kill her Christmas.

Carolyn Briggs has three married adult children. They and their spouses have renounced Christmas in favor of a life dedicated to the worship of the Nature Goddess.

She describes them:

MY three vegetarian, activist, urban, multi-degreed, agnostic, adult children have rejected Christmas as a consumerist sham of a holiday, one in which they will not be participating. Oh, they’ll take the day off and drink organic wine, but they won’t be buying presents, putting up a tree, baking cookies, lighting candles or decking any halls. There will be no taking of a family picture for their card and no sending of that card or any other.

Christmas is celebrated around the world, by many people who are not Christians. In America it’s a national holiday.

Many Christians bemoan the commercialization of the holiday, but a minimally sentient human being should understand that there is much more to giving gifts than participating in a capitalist conspiracy against the Goddess.

What does Christmas mean to Carolyn Briggs:

For me, Christmas is one of those fleeting but essential “aah” moments of generosity, family bonding and extravagance of spirit that psychologists tell us matter because they give us the opportunity to transcend, appreciate and feel outside of time. I don’t know about you, but I need that at least once a year.

Surely, this explains why so many non-Christians celebrate Christmas.

Briggs’ “activist” children have made an ideologically-based decision. They will impose their views on their parents. They will do everything in their power to prevent their parents from celebrating Christmas.

These children love Nature beyond reason,  with the exception of the natural process that would allow them to reproduce themselves, and thus, to provide Carolyn Briggs and her husband with grandchildren.

Briggs writes:

There would be no homecoming, no wrapped gifts and no grandchildren to fill with Santa dreams. My grown children were childless by choice and vowed to remain that way. 

Ceremonies and rituals bring society together. Their absence divides and fragments the polity.

These children may not feel that they hate their parents, but they are acting as though they do. No one is forcing them to believe anything that they do not want to believe, but they ought to be able, for one day a year to show some respect to their parents.

If these neo-pagans do not want to celebrate Christmas, that is their business. Depriving their mother, in particular, of a holiday celebration that is, as her article explains, so important for her, bespeaks a meanness of spirit, an absence of generosity that deserves no respect.

Don’t these children owe their parents something for having given them life, for having brought them up and for having helped provide them with advanced educations?

Where did they learn to become monsters of ingratitude?

In today’s America, an advanced education often brainwashes people to the point where they can only show contempt for people who do not think as they do.

No one has ever described this heartlessness as well as Charles Dickens. Describing Ebenezer Scrooge, Dickens wrote:

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn't know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often `came down' handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

One applauds Carolyn Briggs for shaming her ungrateful children in the pages of the New York Times.

Unfortunately, this story does not have a happy ending. Faced with the recalcitrance of her fanatical children, Briggs finds herself having to choose between them and Christmas.

She chooses her children and can now look forward to bleak and desolate, joyless Christmases.

I have thought about my behavior all year, and I am resolved not to become the old person in the family who remains recalcitrant and claims outsize privilege with age. I am not going to guilt my children anymore for not giving me what I assumed they would be happy to provide.

I had hoped for grandchildren, and I wanted those grandchildren with glossy hair and pajamas sitting around my Christmas tree each and every year, but that’s not what I’m going to get. My children will bring kennels and leashes to my house, not strollers and car seats. They are going to be exchanging notes on dog food and doggy day cares, and they will continue to refer to their peers who are parents as breeders.

We are all going to meet at my daughter’s in Texas at the end of December. Even though we will never attempt a traditional Christmas again, we will have some winter holiday gathering where we eat bowls of faro and root vegetables topped off by a dessert of silken tofu lemon mousse. We will share stories of our lives and travels. The guitars will come out.

Apparently, the Times applauds Briggs’ spirit of compromise and conciliation. The newspaper of record seems to like it when one group of people imposes its views on others.

It entitles the article: “A Holiday Built on Presence, Not Presents.”

As though the one precludes the other.

In truth, the Briggs children are not present for the festivities and celebrations. They might be there as flesh and blood, but they are absent in spirit.

There’s more to presence than occupying space. Holidays are about giving. The Briggs children are taking something from someone.

Giving gifts is a universal custom. It creates and confirms a human connection. To see it as a capitalist plot is mere ignorance.

I am not sure that any of us know what we would do were we faced with the choice that Carolyn Briggs faces. We would hope we would have the moral courage to shame our children in public for their disgraceful failure to show the least generosity and respect for their parents.


Sam L. said...

What fools those mortals be! Graduated from Grinch U. with lowest dishonors.

David Foster said...

"In today’s America, an advanced education often brainwashes people to the point where they can only show contempt for people who do not think as they do."

In C S Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength, the principal character is captured by a sinister cabal. He is put through a process of training which is aimed at killing “all specifically human reactions” in a person.

To kill the “specifically human reactions” in a person and substitute something else…doesn't that often seem to be the effect of higher education–especially graduate education–as carried out today?

See my post An Incident at the Movies:

David Foster said...

I think there is plenty wrong with the author, too. She HATES someone because of a knit hat? She's FURIOUS at her "sweet husband" rubbing her back?

n.n said...

They are "multi-degreed", huh? It is the commercialization of the education product. They are consumerist of another shade.

That said, they are missing the key ingredient of a better human being: humility.

As for agnostic, do they reject the commercialization of Christmas, and do they respect the celebration of Christmas by Christians? I tend to believe they are atheist rather than agnostic.

worship of the Nature Goddess

They reject a faith in God. They are atheist. They are not neutral observers.

with the exception of the natural process that would allow them to reproduce themselves

It's telling that the people most likely to reject the natural order are the one's most obsessed with the material order and their own ego -- the dysfunctional order.

bespeaks a meanness of spirit, an absence of generosity that deserves no respect.

Exactly. Their progress is readily qualified as negative or regressive. They are simply fanatics who defer to the fulfillment of their own egos -- an undeveloped form of human life.

they will continue to refer to their peers who are parents as breeders

Fanatics. They reject both God and Nature's order. They are committing generational suicide.

They are egoistic and materialistic of the highest order. This is beyond projection. They defend their fragile egos with displacement. They will never recognize that not only are they hypocrites, but that they are, in fact, the cause of a devalued human life.

They demand respect and offer none in return.

Wow. The mother is right. She has no reason to celebrate.

n.n said...

David Foster:

Can we distinguish between cause and effect? In the Tutsi slaughter Hutu slaughter Tutsi retributive change cycle, the causal relationships tend to be obscured and eventually lost.

This is important to consider. What came first, the dysfunctional mother or children, or was their dysfunction mutually reinforcing?

Nick said...

I wonder what God's plan's is for these people? (Obama and his cronies also).

Will they be completely embarrassed during their lifetimes? Or, will they have to wait until Judgement day for them to realize the incredible error of their ways?

Either way, they're screwed.

Dennis said...

I am reminded of a comment made by John Burroughs. "A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure until he begins to blame someone else." It kind of fits in a country that is slowly becoming a "failed nation."
The second one starts to avoid taking responsibility for one's actions they are on the road to failure.
Merry Christmas to all and remember sensitivity goes BOTH ways.

Sam L. said...

David Foster said...

I think there is plenty wrong with the author, too. She HATES someone because of a knit hat? She's FURIOUS at her "sweet husband" rubbing her back?

I missed this in my first read-through. Did not find it in my 2nd thru 4th, either. Where is it?

Ah--the original article. I think she's not furious at her husband, but actually at herself for her delusions of Chistmas with these rotten kids and her friend's nut-ball pot-head girlfriend.

But Stu's the shrink, not me; I'm just guessing.

Sam L. said...

And, well, the NYT; it's just the perfect piece for them, isn't it?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I see your point about the mother, but I think that she had fallen into despair over what her children had become and what they were doing to her.

Frankly, I don't think she should have tried to put something together in NO or should accede to their terms... but they aren't my children, so I hesitated before passing judgment.

David Foster said...

Sam's in the second page of the NYT article. Direct quote:

"My friend is younger than I am, but this woman was probably half his age and wearing one of those stupid knit hats with the ties dangling on either side of her face. I would hate her for many things before the night was over, but that insufferable hat was the first thing I hated her for."