Burning the candle, by Elayne Riggs
This column is finally up to installment #42. As you well know, that’s said to be the answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything. And now that I’m 50 years old, I’m supposed to be ever much smarter than I used to be, and ever so much closer to achieving the enlightenment that’s supposed to help me understand the questions to that answer.
Don’t you believe it. It’s a good thing life is a constant learning experience, although it’s a bit disheartening that the more I live the more there remains for me to learn. I can’t be the only one who constantly feels like I’m treading water, or running in place just to keep up.
Last night many Jews began the annual commemoration of Chanukah (or Hanukkah or Channukah or Throat-Warbler Mangrove), the Festival of Lights, not to be confused with Diwali, the Festival of Light marking the victory of good over evil, and uplifting of spiritual darkness, which seems to predate it by a good many centuries. Chanukah marks the rededication of the Second Temple (after it was desecrated by Antiochus IV Epiphanes at the time of the Maccabee rebellion, a couple hundred years before that Jesus guy came along) and the miracle that one day’s worth of consecrated olive oil wound up burning for eight (the length of time it took to process a new batch). So instead of celebrating something cool like the uplifting of spiritual darkness, in the hands of the Jews the festival became the glorification of frugality, of making a little go a long way.
Then the Christians came along and, within another few centuries, had converted massive populations and co-opted their festivals so that Midwinter (the winter solstice) practices became part of Christmas, which grew and grew into a general celebration of plenty and excess and cheer (except for those people who insist on missing the point by suggesting Santa is a "bad role model" because he’s fat and jolly; no no, can’t have any happy large people around during the months when it’s customary to fatten up to stave off cold and hunger!). And you know, given the choice between a whooping it up over how fortunate one is to have enough to eat and how dire one’s circumstances are that one has to burn the midnight oil for a week — well, let’s just say it’s easy to see how one can become so popular it’s no longer solely Christian or even pagan but practically secular, where the other is forever relegated in the public consciousness to second-place status and an excuse to teach lessons in multicultural inclusion.
Which, noble a sentiment as that may be, always drove me nuts because Chanukah is a fairly minor holiday on the Jewish calendar, in no way equivalent to Christmas (particularly since Jews do not believe the Messiah has come yet, so it’d be pretty hard to celebrate said Messiah’s birthday). The big-deal happenings for Jews are the Ten Days of Atonement beginning with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and ending with Yom Kippur; and Passover, which celebrates freedom from bondage, something right up there with the uplifting of spiritual darkness if you ask me. (I also quite like Purim which, though minor, celebrates a female hero and is every bit as fun as Hallowe’en, its closest Christian/pagan equivalent).
So yeah, Chanukah. Stretch that peak oil, you Maccabees! Burn that candle at both ends! Tread water and run in place just to keep up!
Nosiree, no real sense of identification for me there.
Robin notes that my mental (and subsequently blog-based) list-making may be at fault. I have a tendency to promise myself, through my blog, that I will accomplish a, b and c during a certain period of time, then to feel like a bit of a failure when it’s not done because d, e and f (i.e., Life) got in the way. I keep promising you more of My Favorite Things in terms of current comic book art, I have the last DC comp box sitting in the computer room from which to discuss select books, and what should arrive in Monday’s UPS delivery but the latest DC comps plus my shipment from Midtown Comics with most of my November non-DC reading? Every time I try to wrap up recent developments a new one comes along. And every time I try to move forward with my life I’m pulled back to unfinished business. As you read this, I have just completed three straight business days not looking for a new job, not finishing this column with time to spare, but stuck at my old office training my coworker in procedures which he then needs to pass on to my eventual successor, even though I haven’t been employed by said office since mid-November. (It’s complicated and will be explained over a nice glass of red wine that you’ll want to buy me next time you see me.)
Now, I love multitasking, but I’m only human. I’m not a bloody drop of consecrated olive oil, there’s a limit as to how much I can stretch myself.
So all in all, I like the idea of celebrating abundance better, the tantalizing idea that there will be time enough for everything if only we slow down and appreciate what’s around us now, get a little rest, and take stock during the winter. But growing up Jewish, I also acknowledge that the only thing I have always had in abundance has been my ability to kvetch. Thanks for listening.
Elayne Riggs is ComicMix‘s news editor and wants to wish her husband Robin a very happy 46th birthday tomorrow (yesterday was their 9th anniversary, making this the week of celebrations at the Riggs Residence).