DENNIS O’NEIL: The World Must Make Sense
Here we are again: Christmas Eve, and I had an idea for a column – a kind of story/parable that would culminate in a macabre image involving the season’s most prominent icons. The Scrooge in me thinks the piece might be pretty cool, but there’s another me that doesn’t want to perpetuate ugliness of any kind. This second me believes in the season – or, to be exact, the need for the season.
I’ve never wrapped my head completely around Claude Levi-Strauss’ contention that ritual precedes mythology. But the Christmas frolics might give me a clue. Begin with this: outside, it is cold and bleak and the days are very, very short. We glimpse the coming void and we are afraid. Not panicky, just feeling a quiet dread. And we rally – we gather together where there is light, and we sing, and we dance, and we exchange gifts and festive foods. We defy the darkness, the dread. The days will get longer, and warm: this we proclaim, and we are comforted. Deep inside, we share with our ancestors.
We accept the stories that arose in them to answer the brain’s need for structure and logic – the world must make sense! – we must be able to explain.
We conflate ritual and myth and – behold! A holiday!
So no ugliness from me today. Nor tomorrow. The next day? Who knows?
The Weather Channel predicts snow tonight. Tomorrow we will waken and perhaps the world outside the window will be lovely. Later, Larry and Perri will come up from Brooklyn and we will share a meal and exchange tokens and that will be fine, just fine – exactly as we want it to be.
RECOMMENDED READING: Why Does The World Exist?, by Jim Holt.
FRIDAY: Martha Thomases