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.