01 May 2012

THT: Santa Claus's Greatest Gift - Bliss

I believed in Santa Clause through most of my elementary school life. It's true. I had no reason to suspect the jolly old man wasn't real. In fact, I felt I had pretty good evidence that he existed. I'd wake up Christmas morning and clearly, he had taken bites out of the cookies and snacks I left out. I could have sworn I heard him on the roof and in the house. Songs spoke of kids all over the world who had caught glimpses of that plump old man. This was clear evidence to me that, indeed Santa was real.

Sometimes I had a challenging thought. For instance, I didn't have a fireplace in my childhood home. Well, while Santa clearly prefers entrance by way of chimney, he is full of magic. A lack of fireplace would be no match for the powers Santa had at his fingertips. He was all-powerful! And never would I want to be awake when he came... perhaps he'd pass by my house if I was up and about!

Oh the joy of those nights where sleep came slowly and the mornings began with an early rush of excitement and anticipation. Even as an adult I look back on those years with fondness and sometimes catch myself wishing that for a moment, I could believe again. It was so magical.


My roommate and I had a discussion about an experience he had while talking with a couple of LDS guys. One was about to go on a mission, and one had just returned home. He related to me how he felt somewhat envious of them. He knew what it was like being in their shoes. The world was so clear. Their life was so clearly constructed. The RM would go on to find a wife and have a family, raise them in the same belief system where they'd all go on happily believing they would all be together in the end. Joyfully ignorant of any other possibility.

The soon to be missionary was beaming with joy and affirmation as family and friends rallied around him and his brave commitment to serve the God of all goodness and creation regardless of the challenges the next two years might bring. The world he knew lifted him onto his chariot of righteousness that would begin a path that was undeniably good. Never could he imagine a more good way to sacrifice his time. This was what he had always dreamed of becoming. Like his heros in Sunday School, he was about to embark on a journey so noble, it would be worthy of filling volumes of holy writ.

I identified with my roommate's experience. There have been several times where I have had a passing wish that I could just believe again. It was so much easier to have answers to everything. My mind didn't have to be bothered by questions. What I knew made up the world in its entirety. Outside tumoil need never to disrupt my bliss. All I needed to do was re-affirm to myself that it was I who had the truth, which I did at church every week.

Living in reality is quite a bit different. Never would I assume that I know everything there is so know. Never would I imagine that I had already learned the most important knowledge I could gain. Life is full of questions and possibilities. There is no map where my life is clearly marked. But, just as no sound adult could force themselves to again believe in Santa Clause, I cannot force myself to believe again in Mormonism (and perhaps even God?).

"But how can you deny what you have experienced in your lifetime? How can you disregard the clear hand of God in your life?"

Well, how can you deny the moments in childhood where you swear you heard Santa. How about all the "evidence" your childhood mind had found to affirm the reality of that magical gift-giving man? You see, once we are conscious of the fact that we perpetuated our own belief by ascribing meaning to things that we accepted as "evidence" for Santa, we can no longer ignore the plain truth.

Clearly, my parents took bites from the treats I left out. The sounds I heard, were sounds I may have heard on any night, but I was listening for the purpose of affirming my belief.

Did it feel good to believe in Santa? I'd say so! That kind of excitement and anticipation will never be matched. Does that make it true. No. And I for one value truth.

You see, while I no longer have a clear construct of the world and cosmos in my mind, the infinite possibilities that I am no open to have added a new depth to life. The world is out there to discover. It is an adventure I've embarked on that has no timeline or map. I don't know where it will take me- and that is quite exciting.

And though there are times when I miss the quite days of bliss, I could never consciously choose ignorance and be happy... or even sane.