A cynical friend of mine, whose company I have to endure every once in a while due to social obligations, bears strong convictions against the whole assortment of religious beliefs, and most notably Christian beliefs. In his self proclaimed wisdom, humans have an insatiable need to feel important and wanted. He says this explains every human act, much like the Freudian theory about human behavior and sex, but that’s a story for another day.
You see, my cynical friend has concocted a conspiracy theory, in which he claims that a very brilliant mind realized at one point in history, that the key to universal dominion wasn’t in amassing weapons, arming hundreds of thousands of country boys and heading out to conquer one kingdom after another. That had already been tried and proven to be a futile endeavor by the Romans et al.
No, he realized that what drove even the Romans to try conquering the world was the search for meaning, for a purpose, for a reason to live. The only way to gain true supremacy was to fill this void, or at least provide a shadow that would act as a symbol of destiny, and if he could somehow get the whole world to chase this shadow, then only one thing would be left to complete the puzzle. He would present himself as the key, the answer to this question of destiny. Of course no one can ever catch a shadow, but in our earnest desire for attaining the unknown, we have been blinded to this reality. Thus we keep chasing and chasing, and this brilliant composer of the symphony of faith becomes more and more powerful as generation after generation passes, all in search of the same false ideal. Or so my cynical friend claims.
Do I believe him? Frankly, No. Mostly because this is not the only twisted harangue he has conjured up after one or two beers. I have to admit however, that sometimes, as rare as it happens, I come really close to thinking that maybe, just maybe, he might be remotely right. This happens mostly during the Christmas Season.
When I was growing up, one of the events I looked forward to most was the Christmas festivities. For years, this excitement was fueled by the thought of seeing my extended family, hanging out with my favorite uncle, listening to my grandma’s folk tales and getting lost in their huge maize plantation. Of course the Goat slaughtering norm was not to be missed, though the only help we could offer was to stay out of everyone’s way.
This changed dramatically one particular year in my pre-adolescent stages when an unusual pack of visitors arrived at my Grandma’s farm. They had been invited to be our Guests for Christmas, which I totally could not fathom since Christmas had always been family time for us. Before we knew it, previously unnoticed but cherished activities like football in the front yard, and eating from the cooking pot were prohibited. Walking around shirtless turned out to be insanely uncouth, and the worst of it all, we had to shower every day!
Then there was Anne!
Anne was one of the twin daughters of one of our Visitors, and she was the most annoying girl I had ever met. Problem was, she had this new shiny bicycle, and boy did I yearn for a ride. I couldn’t understand her relentless insistence on holding hands with me and following me everywhere I went. Unfortunately, if I didn’t agree to the tag along, I didn’t get the bicycle, so at times I had to acquiesce, just to get that one ride.
Eventually, I had to share my frustrations with my favorite uncle. As it turned out, according to my favorite uncle, Anne had an eye for me. Suddenly, everything fell into place. The rides, the holding of hands, the sitting together at all family gatherings… it all made sense now. This revelation changed my life from then on. Christmas was never complete unless I saw her and shared my experiences from the past year with her.
For years this became my new Christmas tradition. Visiting Grandma, and seeing Anne. Then one fateful year, she was no more. Her father had been transferred to a School in the opposite side of the country as a headmaster, and he took his whole family with him.
Anne was gone.
That must have been the closest I ever got to being depressed. Christmas made sense no more. Family gatherings were no longer a treat. My Grandma’s folk tales had become boring and monotonous. My favorite uncle had gotten married and moved to live with his wife and new born baby. Christmas was gone.
I remember one of my Mum’s attempts at initiating a re-birth of the Christmas spirit in me was to trick me into joining our local church Altar boys group. Over and over she told me that Christmas wasn’t about going to Grandma’s and eating Meat, or meeting that Anne girl. It was about the birth of Christ, and what it meant for our lives. And after years of patience on my mum’s part, I was healed. Christmas treat for me became preparing the crib for baby Jesus and assisting our local priest during Christmas day celebrations at Church. Years would go by before I went back to visit my Grandma, and that would only be for an overnight stay before I went back home to attend to my Church obligations. Christ was being born, and that was no Joke for me.
This would be a great way to end this article, but as it turns out, life plays incredibly cruel jokes with our minds, and beliefs. Growing up exposes you to a lot more than just nagging girls, and bicycles and Altar boys groups. If you my dear reader have hit the inevitable ceiling of adulthood, then most likely at one point or the other your faith and life purpose has been tested, shaken, turned inside out, at times leaving you totally devoid of hope. The details of these ‘baptisms by fire’ are mostly better kept under wraps.
Some people, like my cynical friend, choose to put their hearts at ease by totally refusing to acknowledge any manner of religious inclination, while some, like my erstwhile mentor, choose to live and die by their religious beliefs. I belong to the group which I consider to be the vast majority, those of us who are still pursuing that life purpose.
That’s why I hate Christmas, because it reminds me of Anne, and this lifelong search for the Unknown.
Enjoy your Holidays.
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Lawrence is the guy next door; A young, aspirational Kenyan gentleman; But most of all, a romantic soul in search of true love.