December 10, 2012

Santa is real.

You were lied to. You were lied to early and often. And are still being lied to.

Let's start at the beginning.

At first, when you were young and innocent and the monster under the bed was more real than the concept of "tomorrow", you knew Santa was out there. Waiting. Watching. Making his list. Checking it twice. You wanted to be on that nice list SO bad and gave it your best shot. You figured though, that since Santa could see all you do, you stood a good shot of making the naughty list, too. And so Christmas Eve was fraught with a heightened, giddy nervousness. Because not only was Santa going to come that night, but only then would you find out the ultimate judgement upon your soul. A judgement so concrete, so final, that the other kind of judgement taught in Sunday School had all the substance of a heat mirage.

And then someone lied to you. Maybe it was on the playground, or maybe it was your older sibling. Maybe it was something you read in a newspaper or magazine meant for parents.  And all your subsequent fact-checking, your questions to friends, your clever linguistic traps you lured your parents into, all backed up the best lie you've ever fallen for:  Santa. Isn't. Real.

So you thought you were lied to as a little kid. You thought that, like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, that Santa was all made up. You thought that, like the monster under the bed, the reality of Santa was somehow contingent upon your now-shattered childhood perception of the world. But brace yourself: the nasty truth is that you - the childhood you - knew the real truth first. And you turned away from it.

You had the certainty of a child's reality, but allowed yourself to be lured by the sultry musk of adulthood. And once you'd inhaled that tangy odor of being a "big boy", you were tainted and corruptible by lies. Big lies. Lies such as "Santa isn't real."  You'd been yoked by doubt, stripped of your childish cloak of belief, and given a new mantle of skepticism.  Poor you.

You know the history by now, right, now that you're a full-fledged, card-carrying, money-earning, alcohol-drinking, SUV-driving, Starbucks-swilling sophisticated adult. A bitter adult, who lives in a world of lies. This history tells us that Saint Nicholas was, truly, an actual man. As real in his day and in his deed as you are and that pesky twice-a-day masturbation habit of yours. But you believe, as other adults do, that St Nicholas died as mortals do and that "Santa" is nothing more than a made-up machina of commercialism. A cartooned stock market for exchanging your values for cheap Chinese trinkets. A golem for greed.

But strip away the buying, the selling, the deadly sin of Avarice. Strip away the comic-book sensationalism of A Night Before Christmas and Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer. Take down the nylon light-up, blow-up nylon golden calves glowing in your front yard, and cover over the tracks of the masses beaten into the Wal-Mart parking lot.  Assassinate the false idol.

What's left?

What's left is proof, a thousand, million times over, of the actual existence of Santa Claus. The selfless deeds of neighbor helping neighbor during Hurricane Sandy. The thousands of bikers and Marines gathering toys so that the children of the very poor won't have an empty Christmas. The simple charity of one rookie cop buying a pair of boots for a homeless man. The thousands of men and women who burdened themselves with hundred-thousand dollar student debt to earn a doctorate in the sciences so as to make a paltry living as a research scientist trying to find the always elusive cures to what ail us. The runners who didn't begrudge their canceled marathon, but instead took the day to go out the Rockaways and assist in cleanup efforts.  The organ donors.

These acts are all motivated by the exact same sense of purpose, empathy, charity, and selflessness  that motivated our original Nicholas to toss his wealth through a window into three young girls' stockings as they dried by the fire, such that they may have enough dowry to be married.

This spirit is sometimes hard to see, but it is in us and has never left us. Once we are lied to, we become blinded to it, but children see it plainly. Children see that spirit as a fat man in a red suit and, sure, that perception will change. But if children are not lied to, then only his garb and his face will change, but not the fact of his existence. As they grow into adulthood, they will see the new face of Santa - in the mirror.  And the real truth will out: Santa is - and always has been - quite real.

December 10, 2012.

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