At the end of a decade, it is popular to look back to the many things that have changed. There are loved ones who have passed on, events that have thrilled or terrified us, and new inventions that made life a bit different. Yet for all of these turning points there is one thing that has not changed that probably should have in the last decade. Our political world is, more or less, about what it was ten years ago. That may not seem remarkable – but it is far more interesting than any of the great changes that swept over the same barren, dry landscape.
The English language is as adaptable as our culture, which is not a surprise. Language is often little more than an expression of what people need to express. We’re a borrowing people who take ideas and products from just about anywhere – and bring the words along with them. That’s probably a good thing since sometimes English takes strange turns on its own.
It’s Christmas Day in Saint Paul. The snow has piled up along the roads in a scene right out of Bedford Falls, though more still than the frantic rush to life that George Bailey discovered just on time. Everyone has settled in to whatever they’ve prepared for, ready for a day buried in snow and memories. You can make of it what you want, like most things in life – a fluffy blanket of stillness or the weight of time falling around you. Both are good, in their own way.
The daylight is short, and shorter yet when the clouds hang low and thick all day. The grey and oppressive weight of time has to be carried through the mechanics that mark this time of year – a scurrying, constant motion to get everything done that we are supposed to. Yet for all the obligations that keep us going there is still just one thing that makes sense of all the holidays and traditions of this season – a time to simply sit down and take it all in. A day to relax is all we really need.
Today is, for my family and me, the big Winter holiday. The Solstice is precisely at 17:47 GMT (11:47 CDT), always right on schedule. At this moment, the northern hemisphere will be at its darkest, but also starts turning back towards the sun. We celebrate it by blowing out the many candles that are lit and enjoying a few moments without light or sound – just the music of the spheres to contemplate for a moment. This is our holiday for the season.
When kids are learning to read, a good teacher gives them as many tools to use. Young readers are taught to sound out words they don’t know, words and concepts are repeated, and stories are put into a form that are familiar and warm. All of these help us even as adults along with one more critical tool – context, a bigger whole than the details that support it. Context comes from the pictures that support the text, either in a kids’ book or a magazine, but it also comes from the text itself. It also happens to be something that is fading from our culture altogether in strange and chilling ways.
I thought that it was time to write a Christmas Carol that honors our true savior – Brett Favre. The tune is “O Little Town of Bethlehem” for the Carol-Impaired.