The title of this article might seem a strange one to read on Christmas. Please don’t avoid this, if your avoidance is just to steer clear of a sad note, because I write this with an uplifted spirit and a hope that I can bring some cheer to my friends and even unknown readers. You see, recently, several of my friends have experienced situations where everything seemed about to go their way, and then life took an unexpected turn and results turned out not in their favor. Whether they expressed it explicitly or not, I sensed a feeling from them that echoed this blog’s title. Here is a message from me to them and coincidentally all of you.
Let me start with a historical example of life turning out pretty well: One Christmas show that I like to rewatch is an old production of “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”. When I first watched and learned of this tale (as a young teenager), I was moved by the story of an adult validating a child’s wide-eyed wonder and hopeful belief in a positive symbol of the season. As I grew into a more skeptical and downhearted mindset, I tried to shun the story as a fantastical and overly religious morality play, regardless of its historical accuracy. After all, the famous editorial from whence the title comes includes mention of God and fairies and faith! How abhorrent to a rational thinker, no? But I’m proud to say that I have continued to grow. Now, in this stage of life, I’ve reached a point where I am happy to say I like the story again.
I like the story because of the reasons why. Little Virginia wanted to believe that there is good in the world, represented by the jolly old elf. Frank Church didn’t literally believe in Santa Claus and as a hardened veteran journalist, I might even question his belief in God, let alone fairies. Yet, he wanted to encourage that pursuit of goodness and happiness and cheer that he could read described between the lines of Virginia’s letter. He wanted to provide a helpful bit of externally derived strength and support against the dismissive and spirit-dampening people who surrounded that little girl. It feels right that Virginia O’Hanlon’s letter got the response it did. In writing his editorial, Mr. Church sent a message into the world that has reverberated through time. There is almost no other information about Francis Pharcellus Church, save note of his response to the youthful missive. Even the fact that the story has been retold to this day is itself a point that warms my grinchy heart.
Now, despite my renewed appreciation for that page out of history, I also want to send another message out to all of you; something more universal that requires no more belief than that in one’s own senses and self. I may question the existence of God, but I do not doubt that things are what they are. Actions and people are but themselves and I firmly believe that solace for our world and our future can be derived from that most important act of paying attention to the events around us. Maybe you don’t care about Virginia’s story. So, I’ll share with you an anecdote from my own life in the hope that it may hearten you in some way akin to how Mr. Church’s response heartened Virginia.
My own heart has been broken in the past. Again, I’ll tell you that’s not a reason for sadness and I’ll try to explain why. I found my life enriched by the presence of a woman, full of beauty and cleverness and other qualities I hold dear. I wanted to be with her and courted her. She was kind and appreciative, but did not reciprocate my feelings and responded in honesty. I won’t lie here and say it didn’t hurt but that’s not the point, anyway. I reflexively fell into a depression for a moment before I was able to recognize that I was just continuing to hurt myself to no positive end. I had found myself thinking that life isn’t fair and resenting it for the injustice of introducing to me someone who should return my affections for many good reasons but did not.
Well, life really is not fair. That’s because fairness is our invention. I think we see rationality in the causes and effects of the world around us and recognizing things for what they are and appreciating the rightness of reality, we seek to impose that reasoning upon ourselves. If a seed is planted in the right way, a life springs from it and that is good. If a right action is performed by a man, a reward should come to him by similar reason, and that’s what we call fairness. This is obviously a simplification just to illustrate my meaning. But many of the rewards that we value come from other people. And though the inner workings of the mind may be trained for reason, I have yet to meet anyone who can train his heart that well. These realizations helped me to change both my perception of what I’d experienced and of that woman.
She should not have been blamed that as the object of my affection, she did not return my attraction. She was truly herself and not the hoped version of her for which I had wished. The fairest thing that she could do is be honest with me, which she did. I had chosen to take my heart from its place of safekeeping and offer it willingly, not as a barter or a sale, but as a gift. No person is ever required to accept such a gift, though it’s to be hoped that a return would happen sooner than later, since it is not a pleasant feeling to be missing one’s heart. My heart was declined and returned and it is a fragile thing so there is no surprise that it broke in the process. Ah, but some of the amazing qualities of our hearts are that they heal, they are strong, and they keep us going. If I hadn’t risked my heart, I wouldn’t have had even a chance for success, and I would never have known the truth of matters and that truth is important to me.
The result of my courtship was not what I wanted, and not what some might call fair. I am happy, nonetheless. The world is no less filled with wonders for my heartache. This woman herself was no less wonderful for my heartache and her honesty was just another quality I held dear. I worked to overcome my own foolishness and hoped to keep her in my life as I still cared for her very much. I take comfort in the fact that I could recognize the good in this situation. If there is no fairness in the affairs of the heart, I still see that the universe around us is as fair as it can be. Life doesn’t hide its realities from us. We are presented with the truth of things, no matter how enjoyable or painful. It is in us to extract fairness and justice and joy. What if we never have another chance to do good and be right and enjoy happiness? How dare we waste our tiny lives in dwelling upon pain and sadness when we can choose to make the world better in everything we do?
My tale of difficulty is also tiny and I know that. But it’s a universal story and I suspect most of my readers have felt these feelings. Had I chosen to stay in my head, surrounded by a wall of misery built by myself, then this story would be tragic. I refused. I take comfort in truth and am uplifted by the gloriousness of the real world and make the best of it that I may. And I hope that knowing how I interpreted my emotional trials is of help to you.
Life is not fair, but I can be. So can you. So can we all. I look to the events around me, good and bad, joyful and painful, and I appreciate them as fairly as I am able. I look to you and appreciate that you take the time to read my rambling paragraphs. Getting this far was more than fair of you!
I choose to be happy and to have a Merry Christmas. I hope that my overlong note also helps you to be happy in some small way.
And since it is only fair that I would share this with the people who read my blog, I am happy to wish you a Merry Christmas, too!