Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Bottled Holiday Warmth

Many of us get depressed during the holidays. We tend to look around at the seething overflow of cheer everywhere -- in the media, on the streets, under every social circumstance. If we are not personally caught up in the whirlwind joy, we feel inadequate, and the blue feeling intensifies and spirals.

Eventually we are like spots of gloom compared to the rest of the bubbling Happyland, when in fact we are merely the same -- exactly how we had been moments before someone decided to call in the holidays.

All of this might take place not because we are all Humbug Scrooges, but because any forced mood change somehow feels artificial, unreal, and most of us are able to tell.

Indeed, festive mood is like a bottled giddy perfume, and it gets liberally sprayed on the world around the early fall, so that all the focus tends to slip toward green fur tree boughs, red gift wrap, golden blurry lights, and various camera angles upon a laden feast table centerpiece. The festive fragrance also calls up people dressed in bright sweaters, smiling excessively and hugging each other, raising sparkling glasses to toast something intangible.

Sometimes this perfume works on us, and we are caught up in the glow (in which case, ignore the rest of this entry, go, shoo!).

Other times, we are not quite in synch with it. So we wave off the overbearing scent in annoyance, not to mention a minor allergic reaction. This is when the dissonance starts to grate, to exacerbate our irritation and our already different personal state. Or else, it increases the nostalgic longing for the illusory joy that seems out of reach.

Think -- how unfair it is to ask anyone to rejoice when they are breaking inside, for so many reasons.

And yet . . .

And yet, the Spirit of the Holidays has a strange healing power if we allow it to affect us. For it is the collective spirit of joy of humanity with all its rich time-brewed traditions and rituals and primeval wonder -- how can it not move us?

However, as with any proper application of scent, too much all at once is a mistake. Mood perfume must be so subtle that it enters you and me without notice, gradually, and starts to seduce with its inevitability.

One breath at a time.

Transforming us.

Then the warmth becomes real, the candles shine with a sacred light, the green boughs beckon, and the smiles touch the heart. Even if just for a moment, it is all genuine, all applicable to us, members of the human species.

It is only then that, drenched in the perfumed sweetness of verisimilitude, we can truly celebrate.

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