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many happy returns, non-Sherlock version

Why should a man be scorned, if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter. just so a Party-spokesman might have labeled departure from the misery of the Fuhrer’s or any other Reich and even criticism of it as treachery …. Not only do they confound the escape of the prisoner with the flight of the deserter; but they would seem to prefer the acquiescence of the “quisling” to the resistance of the patriot.

father christmas tolkien
Illustration from JRR Tolkien’s “Father Christmas”

That’s probably not a very happy quote to start a Christmas wish with but I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit, or at least the basic point behind it, as we’ve gotten closer and closer to the holidays. This last year has been a very difficult one. I’ve learned my graduate school career was ending sans terminal degree and tried to work out what I was doing next. I’ve applied for jobs and been on interviews, with some encouragement but no job offers. I think I’m a little more confident and steady in myself than I was, though I’m still less comfortable than I once was. I think I’m not the only one dealing with, though: people who have lost jobs or are dealing with family members in jail or sudden deaths in the family. A lot of uncertainty in the world, or at least our worlds these days.

In light of that, it can be hard to celebrate Christmas and have it feel authentic. And thinking about this quote has helped me approach the holidays in a slightly different way. To spend time and celebrate the good things in life isn’t escapism in the sense of deserting; it’s about appreciating something better or higher than our daily lives. Like Sam’s mention of a light beyond the grime of Mordor that the shadow couldn’t touch. It’s beautiful in its way, and it gives us a beauty to draw on. More than that, days like Christmas help us imagine a better way of being, I think. They remind us we’re worthy of things like joy and beauty and generosity.

Which is important, probably especially when you’re having a hard go in your daily life. I think that’s why I’m so drawn to Sherlock and Doctor Who these days, because it’s a way to play with things that have a deeper significance and seem good and beautiful. It’s about dreaming about a deeper, better kind of way of being. That’s why I love fanfic and fannish discussions: because they give me a connection with other people who are trying to imagine all of that.

I didn’t start this out to be so philosophical or heavy-handed. I don’t think people need to feel ashamed of enjoying things like Christmas or fandom, that it’s something that needs to be explained. But the philosopher in me is very drawn to the explanations of why both are good, why it’s more than an indulgence. And I think letters like the ones above and Sam’s about light in Mordor (love that!) help me make sense of why.

Regardless: I do hope you have a wonderful day of light, family, love and peace if you celebrate it. That you enjoy whatever you celebrate when you do. And that if December 25 isn’t that day for you, that you stay warm, find an occasion to smile, and generally have a good day.

Ná merye i turuhalmeri, y’all!

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 25th, 2013 03:11 am (UTC)
To spend time and celebrate the good things in life isn’t escapism in the sense of deserting; it’s about appreciating something better or higher than our daily lives.

What a lovely and inspiring thing to think about.
Dec. 25th, 2013 06:16 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad this came off as inspiring rather than heavy-handed, and interesting to someone other than me. Enjoy your day tomorrow (by which I mean today).
Dec. 25th, 2013 04:33 am (UTC)
That is a very appropriate quote, and it's among my favorites from that essay!

I think you are quite right, my dear! It's why people are drawn to the sentimental stories of happy endings and Christmas miracles--because they do show something better is out there, and as silly as some of the trappings of the holidays may seem, so long as they make people smile, so long as they bring a sense of wonder, then they serve a true purpose.
Dec. 25th, 2013 06:21 am (UTC)
I really do need to read the essay from start to finish. I've only ever encountered portions of it, usually second-hand in other peoples' discussions. Which is a bit odd since I love reading Tolkien and love thinking about the topic on my own. Maybe I'll find an hour tomorrow to read it.

I'm glad you found some reflection of this idea in Christmas, too. I think you're exactly right on all that. :-)
Dec. 25th, 2013 05:17 am (UTC)
Thank you for this thought provoking post.We do indeed need to reach for the light beyond the darkness.
Dec. 25th, 2013 06:30 am (UTC)
Indeed! I'm glad my meditation struck a chord with you. Happy Christmas, mellon. :-)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )



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