Friday, 29 November 2013

A Massive New Santa

With Christmas already in sight, we’re at that time of year when the good old Santa question is back in the air. As in, do we lie to our kids and tell them Santa’s coming and all that crap?
My opinion on the matter has been mentioned here, more than once or thrice. However, I’d like to share an angle I’ve recently read from my colleague Sam Harris.
One of the arguments often laid against people like yours truly is that by depriving children of the Santa myth I am making their Christmas less exciting. “Robbing his childhood away” was, I believe, the exact accusation thrown at me by my own parents in law with regards to the way I chose to handle Santa with my son. Because I chose to tell him the truth.
Thus far I looked at things from the point of view arguing that it is better to avoid lying and stick with the truth. Harris, however, goes the other way around: if we are to justify lying with the excitement it creates, then way aim as low as Santa? Why not bring out the big guns, and go with something properly exciting – stuff like fire breathing dragons? In other words, why should we accept the rather boring imagination, when looked upon through contemporary eyes, of those from the era that invented Santa? As in, people who lived before the car, computer or the cell phone? Surely our lies can step up with the times!
I discussed Harris’ arguments with my son and we are both in agreement. This Christmas, children all over the world will be receiving their gifts from Commander Shepard. The piloting skills of Joker and the Normandy's stealth will be utilised to ensure Shepard manages every household on the planet during one night. Garrus will perform all the necessary calibrations while Liara would support Shepard’s gift drop offs through her advanced biotic skills.
And if you happened to be a bad kid, you will get a visit from a Reaper instead.

This Christmas, we will all be going to Mass. Effect.

Image: Frankly, I do not know who the artist I should credit for the Santa Liara image is. That said, it is obvious its copyrights are held by Bioware.


Sarah said...

I read this letter to a child explaining about Santa on a blog somewhere. It is probably too a bit too touchy feely for you but I thought it was nice.

Dear Lucy,

Thank you for your letter. You asked a very good question: “Are you Santa?”

I know you’ve wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I’ve had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no. I am not Santa. There is no one Santa.

I am the person who fills your stockings with presents, though. I also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, Daddy helps, too.)

I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the stairs on Christmas morning. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.

This won’t make you Santa, though.

Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.

It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.

Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So, no. I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.

I love you and I always will.


Moshe Reuveni said...

Prepare to be offended by my answer.

I do not mind the occasional sentimentality, but I have a very low tolerance for bullshit. And bullshit is what this letter is full of.
The core of the argument is that Santa teaches us to believe in things we cannot see or touch, and that this quality allows us to believe in other things we cannot see nor touch. Say, love. I call bullshit on several grounds:
Do you see or feel Napoleon? Yet I suspect you do believe in Napoleon. Moving on, do you see and feel the wifi/3G/4G electromagnetic radiation that powers the network through which you're currently reading this? Yet I suspect you believe in them. The whole of science today is so complicated that it requires us to accept things we cannot see or feel, and we gladly do so. The billions of transistors in the device you're currently using are testimony to the qualities of quantum physics, which not only can't you see and feel but they're also totally counter-intuitive.
Moving on, the letter argues love needs to be accepted on the basis of belief. Again, I call bullshit: love is very much felt and is very much measurable. A baby can easily feel his mother's love and a child can do so as well; both can also feel neglected and more or less loved. There is no need for faith there.
Third, if we are to pretend we accept this argument, then why stop with love? Let's continue and change our justice system to be more along the lines of Santa's. Let us accept evidence that cannot be seen or felt, because we all know this would vastly improve our justice system! OK, seriously now: there are very good reasons why we do not do so, and these reasons apply just as well to the Santa myth.
Ultimately, I suggest we look ourselves in the mirror and admit it: Santa is a traditional myth that started around for religious reasons. Some of us have been brought up with this story and like it, for sentimental reasons; which is a very valid, non bullshit, reason. However, the act of justifying those romantic notions with pathetic excuses is something completely different.
It is right to ask oneself the question of whether those warm memories of Santa filled Christmases are good enough a reason to lie to your child. Trying to hide the core fact of the lie with silly made up reasons is not right, though.

Sarah said...

Not offended I know what at passionate person you are!

We lie all the time to our kids and other loved ones "Oh wow what an amazing drawing that is", "Great Lego tower", "You are a great singer", "I love watching your concerts" "Your new hair is nice","No your bum doesn't look big in that". Is Baa Baa Black sheep played on a mini piano where none of the actual notes are hit and is played 53 times awesome? No. Do we do that to be deceptive? No. We do it because we care about the other person, want to be encouraging and keep their inner world intact.

Santa for me is an extension of that. I haven't yet been asked if Santa is real. When I have been asked questions around it I ask them what they think and they answer their own questions and when the time comes I am directly asked I will be truthful when they are ready.

I just think you are an adult for a really long time. Life can be hard, serious, stressful, monotonous and too real, especially after this week where my father in law has passed away and the family is dealing with that loss and other issues. I don't think there is any hurry or any thing wrong with trying to keep the magic and innocence of childhood alive for your kids until they are ready for something different. Part of that for our family is the story of Santa, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy something they will look back on fondly rather than feeling ripped off that we deceived them. Every family though is different and being respectful of that difference is they key.

Moshe Reuveni said...

I disagree with most, if not all, of what you said. I also think you're making the wrong assumptions about me - it takes something really special for me to lie.
While that's pretty horrible (imagine that, finding someone to disagree with on the Internet!), I will only comment on the last statement: "Every family though is different and being respectful of that difference is they key."
No, being respectful is not the key. I totally disrespect families that mutilate their children in the name of their religion, particularly the mutilation of females which is at a different scale of horrible. While there is a wide margin between that and the Santa lie, my point was to show that respect has nothing to do with it.

Anyway, you did not answer the challenge in the original post: why Santa and not something much more exciting or tailored to your family's specific preferences? Your equivalent of fire breathing dragons?

Much more importantly, I hope the family manages with the passing of your father in law. It appears 2013 hasn't been a good year for fathers.