I suppose you know I am not here to wish you the merriest Christmas you have ever had. Perhaps by now you do not expect such platitudes. This is my hope.
But I am also not here to wish you the saddest of Christmases. Please do not think that. Is this how you see me? A cynic, someone who has lost faith in life? Maybe I am this at times, but could it not be that I am willing to admit my moments of darkness, of doubt, and you are not? There is nothing inherently depressing or wrong with being skeptical. I believe it is important to question life, tradition, society (well, and if you are reading this, you surely also believe this); why else exist but to try to change the entire world for the better?
Do you think me an egoist? This is not a task I believe I alone or even you and I together can complete. And what is "better?" We can move to terrible places with this idea. I suppose for argument's sake I shall define my idea of "better" as less suffering. Less suffering in general. For people, for animals, for the planet (and yes, I believe a planet can suffer. Does this strike you as a trifle romantic? Are you still rolling the word "cynic" around in your mouth?).
And I, until yesterday, believed the prison guard, for all her abhorrent behavior, felt the same way. That is, of course, until I saw the tree. Have you read "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World," by Gabriel Garcia Marquez? If you have not, I will give you a moment. Go look it up online. Read it. I will wait. I can be patient.
Are you finished?
"They only had to take the handkerchief off his face to see that he was ashamed, that it was not his fault that he was so big or so heavy or so handsome, and if he had known that this was going to happen, he would have looked for a more discreet place to drown in, seriously, I even would have tied the anchor off a galleon around my neck and staggered off a cliff like someone who doesn't like things in order not to be upsetting people now with this Wednesday dead body, as you people say, in order not to be bothering anyone with this filthy piece of cold meat that doesn't have anything to do with me."
This Christmas tree is Esteban. Now, if you have not actually read the story like I asked you to, this will not make sense to you. I care not! If you flout the requests of a talking cat, I do not know what to do with you. Seriously.
To continue, I say the prison guard is cruel because this tree is too large for her house. It is embarrassed. It shrugs its massive branches to accommodate. It ducks its (poor, pruned) top to fit beneath the ceiling. It is magnificent.
Ah, did you not expect that adjective?
I enjoy lying on the carpet and staring up into its branches. I imagine Esteban and myself in a field, a breeze, wild flowers; we stand and look up at the sun. And Esteban is my shelter.
So romantic today. I do not know what has gotten into me, except that it must be this behemoth. This hulking, lovely, ridiculous tree in the living room of a prison I cannot escape.
The prison of the prison, the prison in my own head. Less suffering. I come back here because looking into the lights and the plastic snowflakes and thinking of what this holiday has come to mean (and what it has always meant, I suppose), I can only conclude that for all its beauty, all its generosity, and for as much as I (surprisingly, unwillingly, completely) love this tree: everything that it stands for is anathema.
Oh holiday of taser guns at Wal-Mart, buy one get one free plastics, sweat shops and rock bottom prices, gas emissions, starving people who could be fed with just the waste from our Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa dinners (I put them in no particular order expect to mention Christmas first as it is apparently what the prison guard [and therefore I?] celebrates); so much of what is produced by this holiday causes more suffering, not less.
And yet Esteban is beautiful. And yet I love it. And yet I stare into these colored lights and feel something akin to joy pricking at me. Oh, I who do not deserve this warmth. My impotent heart which can only yearn for change, which can do nothing to begin to alleviate suffering.
I feel Esteban knows this and forgives me it.
Even if I cannot forgive myself.