Christmas is soon to be upon us, a time of family, good cheer and celebration. Of course, in this hollow modern world we inhabit it simply doesn’t do to discuss what precisely is being celebrated. The birth of Christ? Oh no, no, noooooo. We certainly mustn’t be so indelicate as to acknowledge that, let alone reflect upon what the significance behind it might be that so warrants celebration.
It should not be so surprising that this is the case, however, for the root of the whole affair is that one great taboo that goes unchallenged by everyone in modern society: Death. That is the true significance of Christmas when we get down to brass tax; God sent his Son to redeem us for our sins, and in doing so fulfilled the prophecies and opened the way to all of us for eternal life thereafter.
Death is not something the modern world is very comfortable with. In olden days households would have parlours where the dearly departed would be lain out for family and friends to mourn over together; today such affairs are banished in favour of receptions dominated by small talk and cookies and the main centre of the house has aptly been renamed the “living” room.
Our modern day hesitations to even acknowledge death are understandable. Death IS a truly horrifying concept. I remember when I first was told that one day it would happen to me I was gripped with a morbid sense of dread (being about five or six at the time I comprehended it as some form of senseless paralysis that would last an eternity and was worried beyond belief that I’d be bored beyond belief). A few years later when I came to understand that after death there was not some sightless, soundless, senseless consciousness but in fact nothing I was mortified.
So it should come as no surprise that a tremendous amount of modern life has come to revolve around distracting ourselves from the horrible but inescapable fact that we all will die one day, to the point where entire industries have been created whose sole purpose is to make us look fitter and younger (because of course it’s the old and invalid that die and if that’s not us we’ll live forever). We fill our lives with trashy pop culture, instant sensual gratification, and endless white noise. Sleep around, the creed of the modern world goes, get wasted and party on because otherwise you might remember that one day you will die.
However this needn’t be the case, for once you actually bring yourself to overcome the initial terror that accompanies the acceptance that you will in fact one day die, the concept actually becomes quite clarifying. Realizing that your time on this earth is in fact finite makes every second all that more precious. In my own case , consciousness and later acceptance of my own mortality has led to me prioritizing what was really important in my own life. I could choose to spend my limited time here chasing the ever fleeting and ultimately unsatisfactory high of “happiness” (as defined by the modern world) or instead devote myself to something greater and more lasting.
It is a funny thing, the modern world’s relationship with happiness. It is almost fetishized as the sole purpose for existence. Just do what makes you happy. If it makes you happy who are others to judge you? At the end of the day what counts is that you are happy with yourself. The irony is, though, that despite elevating get happiness so highly the modern world seems to be very bereft of happy people; survey after survey has shown that we are apparently more miserable than ever before.
So this Christmas I would give you the following advise. Forget trying to be “happy”, at least as it is defined by contemporary society, and instead try to be contemplative. If you’re not the prayerful type that’s fine, it needn’t be religious in nature. Just try to ask yourself what truly matters in the greater scheme of it all and perhaps devote some time to it. Embrace your mortality, and the absolute impermeance of life, and you may just find some contentment.