Media Occupation: Silent Night
It gets so loud sometimes that it drowns out the sacred whispers tugging at your cloak against the winter wind. They remind you that this time of year has been hallowed for more than millennia, back to the Mesopotamian celebration of New Year's over 4,000 years ago, through the Roman winter festival Saturnalia and other pagan holidays. A time before their traditions were co-opted by Christianity in a brilliant marketing move that belies the actual likely March birth of Y'Shua of Nazareth.
But that's just historical dissonance.This holiday column isn't about marketing or chronology or Jesus, be him the savior or just a cool, progressive guy. It's about beauty and silence, and how this time of year provides those few, precious moments when things almost come to a stop, when the stores (mostly) don't open, when the streets (almost) stop moving. When there seems to be some final primal lingering memory in the collective unconscious, if we all pipe down for just a second.
There is still a murmur reminding us there is still true beauty and hope in the world for all of us--no matter what we believe.
Truth and beauty don't need to shout. They're self-evident. In these days of never-ending input, they can be waylaid, but not forever missed.
Years and years ago, I read a poem in The New Yorker that captured the truth and beauty of the season for me. I've kept that issue--March 20, 1995--oddly enough. And every year, I take it out and read it around the holidays. At the risk of getting sued, I'd like to share it with you.
A Winter's Night
Outside, where the snow
Is softly and soundlessly
Falling (there is no wind
Tonight) has brought its quiet
Into the house that was noisy
All day with TV voices,
The telephone ringing,
And the happy shouts of children
Romping from room to room.
Now, except for me, sleep
Has overtaken the house.
I bring the silence of the dark
Outside into it. I wrap that
Around my cares. Soon I, too
Will be sleeping.
My last words will be a plug for the great American publisher and poet James Laughlin, who, as described in his 1997 New York Times obituary, was "fiercely independent [and] published many of the most consequential and revolutionary writers of his time." If you'd like to consider buying some of his books, you can learn more about them here.
Enjoy your time off. May it be a true holiday.