You know, there was a point in my life when I was an English Major. It's true. It was a "pick a subject" sort of situation when I hit Grade 13 and since I liked to write and read, it seemed like the natural choice - except, as I soon found out, it really couldn't have been a worse fit for me. I ended up switching to the Social/Political sciences where my slightly rational side found a home rooted in subjects where I could passionately work myself up into a bit of a sweaty rage when I was told things like "development is colonialism."
I remember the point in which I reached a fork in the road with the English studies. My second year professor proclaimed to us - or rather, through about 3 or 4 classes used symbolism and metaphor and then in a round about way "proclaimed" to us (because English professors never just come out and say anything - rather they like to tease it out of you by albeit eloquently, beating around the bush.)
Anyway, she told us that Love isn't real; Love is narrative. Humans only love because it's the story we've been told through eons of human relationships. Instinctively, we don't love. We only love because we're told to. Because it's our coping mechanism for the bleak world that is human existance.
I don't like to be accused of doing things because I've been told to. So I questioned it. Both inwardly by looking at my own relationships and probably outwardly too. Because lawd, I don't stay too quiet in an institutional setting.
And as a good "feministy" English teacher is won't to do, she pointed to the evidence: Disney movies, Hollywood, War Propaganda. So obviously the research is there.... research I'm sure she poured about 10 years of her life into while earning her PhD.
I love this time of year for so many reasons. I love the early dark evenings. And the ritual that ties me to every year that's come and gone before this one. And I love the general spirit of things; you know, the more likely smiles you get from cashiers, people holding doors open or colleagues at work. You get hugs from people you wouldn't expect! And you can put some of the dirty regular stuff on hold until the New Year hits and you're ready to tackle the things that have plagued you year in and year out, with a fresh outlook.
But of course, whether you're a believer or not, we all know this is centred around the greatest story ever told.
And it may be a bit of an oxymoron but if there's one thing our culture of non-believers believes in, it seems, it's Christmas. Never was there a story we were more in need of. So I get what my University English teacher was getting at, we like a good story, and if it's good enough, we'll keep telling it. Year after year, generation after generation.
But this is where I can't help but question her absolute certainty that this story only supports something that's been fabricated - merely for our hollow satisfaction.
We needed this story, yes. But not because we needed to believe.
In fact, it's in spite of our disbelief, in spite of all the calculated ways in which we think we don't need this story, we realize, we do. Because when it comes down to it, we don't believe because we've been told to.
We believe because we choose to.
And that's why, to me, The Christmas Story is called the most beautiful story ever told. Because it's a wonderful life to be able to believe in things that at times seem impossible. Like peace on earth and good will toward all men.