Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas: A Glimpse into the Void

Christmas. I don’t know how you feel about it, but for me it reveals a lot about the human condition; in fact, in many ways it’s a metaphor that sums up a lot of what’s wrong with existence: the enormous build-up, the contrived excitement, the harassment and pressure, the enforced sociability, the mindless and shameless consumerism and so on, all culminating in a big anti-climax, a lot of garbage strewn around, and a general sense of nothingness once it’s over. Humanity in high-definition.

One of the things I find interesting is the fact that many people dread this particular week, the one between Christmas and New Year. They complain about the deadness, the boredom, the slowness with which times passes. Some even say they look forward to New Year and getting back into the normal routine, aka the routine that they spend the other 51 weeks of the year bitching about. And doesn’t this say it all?

Ultimately, the vast majority of people can’t cope with being left alone to contemplate themselves or the world. Silence and solitude are not desired by the majority. Certain unpalatable facts may become apparent and that would simply be unacceptable. Peter Wessel Zapffe’s insights into the human condition are becoming more and more relevant; in particular, the identification of distraction/ diversion as a vital element in the human coping mechanism. Hence the emphasis placed upon distraction and entertainment that is such a prominent feature of contemporary high-speed Capitalism: i-Phones, i-Pads, X-Boxes, and so on. At all times, we must have flashing images before us. It performs the strange double function of allowing us to retreat from the world while making us feel we are involved in the cutting edge of technology, that we are important, that we are at the heart of things, that we matter. Such devices give us a feeling that we are immersed in action, that we are doing something, and as John Gray wrote, action dispels our sense of inexistence and allows us to escape the inner void that we spend most of our time in flight from, although, ironically, the kind of devices mentioned generally lead only to increased passivity and mental inactivity.

So yeah, Christmas, a time to look in the mirror and see the emptiness staring back.


  1. The other thing many people don't like about Christmas is they often have to spend time with their extended family. This can be a very stressful experience.

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  3. "And doesn’t this say it all? "

    Haha, awesome. Yeah, the end of the year is this running around and problems, and people get stressed when they should - in their own terms - be celebrating, it´s an all around paradox.

    (And every post with the word "void" in it automatically gets to be my favorite.)

  4. i am so glad christmas is over. christmas is my least favorite time of the year. i am a thinker...a deep thinker....i prefer to spend a lot of time alone with my books and my thoughts and christmas time takes so much of that away (i dont have a choice whether to celebrate, sadly i am disabled and still live with my parents and have to do what they want to do). the presents are nice, the lights on houses are nice (and the cookies) but really i just find it all exhausting.

  5. Hi, Rae. Good to see you here. Yeah, it's most definitely a time of harrassmeny and obligation. A nurse once told me that the amount of domestic violence cases that show in the A&E rooms of hospitals on Xmas day is frightening. So much domestic pressure. Another great sign of human joy!

  6. What a great post Karl, every word.

    At last I have no family obligations. Parents gone, idiot siblings too far-flung. Sadly, my partner did procreate, so there are now some grandkids of hers. Beholding the tykes' orgy of mindless wallowing in horrible new Chinese crap was almost too much to bear.

    The only presents I gave were money to the mailman and trash guy and hot dog vendor lady. Also I saw on Facebook that my nephew was taking his first ever trip abroad, so I sent him some $$ that enabled him to go to Paris in addition to London. I'm so fucking sick of existence and money, the only thing I truly enjoy anymore is giving it away. And no I'm not rich, I just have an OK job and live small. Anyway, happy new year and thanks for this awesome blog. My one new years resolution is to comment more in our tiny but excellent AN community. Cheers everybody!

  7. Another great post, Karl. Yeah, Christmas sucks. Nothing about it appeals to me, whatsoever. In fact, it actively sickens me. Glad it's over.

    Sharkbabe, in addition to posting more, you should come in the chat room on Jim's blog sometime. That room has gotten a bit stale, and I suspect you'd liven it up. I always enjoy your posts, as you capture the subtleties of the horror of existence so beautifully.

  8. Sharkbabe, great to see you here and thanks for the great comment and the kind words. Can only echo your line about being sick shit of both life and cash. I know what you mean about giving it away, not that I have any either. And anonymous is right about your comments; do please keep them coming!

    Anonymous, cheers for the compliment. Yeah, next week will nearly come as a relief, nearly...

    Anyways, I hope everyone has a reasonably painless 2012 and let's keep the AN community on the road! Thanks everybody!

  9. The only present that I wanted this X-mas is a box of secobarbital. Not for immediate consumption but when life gets really tough.

  10. How grotesque the cult of Light is at this time of year in northern latitudes. I always dreaded Christmas. The run up, the after, the day itself. Then I had the vast luck to find a similarly minded partner. Now we spend the "holidays" alone, at home, being very quiet. Reading. Watching movies about doom. Letting people carpe their goddamn diems. And bracing ourselves for the inevitable flood of stories about what hell others went through with their kids, their families, etc.

    In the ancient boreal traditions of Finno-Ugric people, this dark time of the year (at that latitude) was a time to sit quietly and go inward. Once they were forcibly Christianized (twice in "Finland") and dispersed/genocided, they adopted the Shiny Hysteria beliefs of their borgsters. Some only pretend.

    The original "santa claus" figure of the "Finns" is very dark, a drunken old dirty shaman who roars into the village demanding food and booze, and threatening to kidnap people's kids if they don't ante up.

    He is likely a remnant of the ancient Paleolithic antlered shaman;. His name in translation means "yule buck" (stag). His job was to remind everyone that the dark will have its day. He was shined up by the Dutch in the New World and eventually turned into the Madison Avenue/Thomas Nast Santa Claus in the Knickerbocker Capital, Manhattan.

    But many "Finns" remember him as joulupukki (though the drive to polish him up is underway). In other nations there are Krampus, various christmas witches, and other dark beastly figures pertinent to the winter solstice. Figures proper for the dark quiet inward dead time of year in the north.

    To sit quietly with the dark, to let it be what it is, was not always a crime. One might imagine that during the Ice Ages, or various darktimes humans survived after volcanic explosions, etc., this might have been the ultimate survival skill. Today I think that gnosticism and AN and similar views come out of the evolutionary honing of our psyche in some very dark ancient times. IOW, we survived because we COULD sit with the dark.

    Ironically enough, the urge to flee the dark, which we are surrounded by, only makes the eventual, inevitable crashes, dooms, and downfalls that much worse. "Hey, there's a leak in the hull!" "Nuh uh, there's a disco party on the upper deck, let's go!" "Seriously, we're taking on water!" "What's wrong with you, you won't dance." "OK, we have about an hour to get everyone into lifeboats." "You're a party pooper! You're insane! Throw you into the brig!" "Oh--never mind. Whatever."

  11. Great comment, anonymous. Thanks for the genealogy of Santa Claus. I had no idea the original figure represented something much darker. A sure sign of how the thought police who insist on the triumph of light have monopolised what can and can't be said and thought these days.

  12. Yep.

    I've been protesting Christmas and basically bowing out, other than showing up at the last minute, for the last couple years.

  13. Amazing blog. I googled "Life is evil" and I just cannot believe how perfectly you expound your philosophical position here. When you really *feel* the reality of it, anti-natalism is the only sensible position to hold.

    I stand by my PS3 though. Without a certain turn-based sci-fi strategy game, I would be entirely lost right now. Not even joking. We all need our distractions, and XBox is a whole lot more legitimate than XMas.

    1. Thanks for the nice words, anonymous! And yes, we all need our distractions. No point in torturing oneself excessively; life will do that for you!

  14. Forgive me for commenting on an old thread but what a brilliant site this is. Reflects my own feelings for most of my life entirely. Anyway on topic, such an interesting view on Christmas - I always get a "staring into the abyss" feeling which starts on the evening of Christmas Eve and doesn't go til New Years Eve. I've never been able to explain it but it's hell. So I'm not alone? Deo Gratias.