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Merry... merriment! ^ | December 21, 2002 | Greg Swann

Posted on 12/21/2002 8:31:10 PM PST by Greg Swann

Merry... merriment!

by Greg Swann

About my very short Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie story The season's greetings, Mikko Ellilä writes:

Swann, I just read your funny little story:

Do you think it would be better for atheists to use the old English word Yule instead of Christmas? I've noticed most English-speaking atheists use the term Winter Solstice but I think that's a rather boring meteorological and astronomical term, not a real name for a healthy hedonistic celebration. The only words for Christmas in Nordic languages are still the pre-Christian words "joulu" in Finnish, "jõul" in Estonian, "jul" in Swedish and Norwegian etc., and the old English word Yule is obviously related to these.

I think I'm probably the wrong person to ask about this. I have opinions, but I'm not sure they're welcome or worthwhile opinions.

First, I say, "Merry Christmas!" and I make a point of saying "Merry Christmas!" as the issue becomes more controversial in the United States. But I also make a point of saying, "Bless you. Thank you." Those words, that order. I do this not because I believe I can call down the favor of a non-existent god, but because I want for people to feel blessed by the wondrous bounty of rational human life. I think I am best an egoist when I "shed grace," those words, that order, but by grace I don't mean anything unmerited, nor anything super-natural. In short, I don't think that just because the concepts of reverence have been usurped by religion that we should therefore relinquish them for our own proper use. The 'self' of my self-reverence is not my body, not my estate or pecuniary interests, but the self, the ego, the idea of my life that is my life in the most fundamental respect. The highest state of human consciousness, in my formulation, is an enduring self-adoration. Merriment is a byproduct of that, secondary but inescapable, like a cascade of orange blossoms, like the unrepeatable scent of a cascade of orange blossoms.

Second, I don't know that my atheism is all that robust. Agnostic means 'without knowledge,' and that would be more than enough to suit my needs if the damnable agnostics didn't insist on insisting that agnostic means 'unknowable.' Atheism means 'without god' and that suits me fine, except that the damnable atheists always seem to me to be saying that the universe cannot possibly be an artifact, a made thing, and I think a position like that, while possible, outstrips the evidence by a large and possibly insuperable quantity. I'm stuck between know-nothings and know-it-alls, and, even if I'm being unfair to both, I don't feel comfortable with either label. I much prefer to call myself an egoist, second because I don't worship any god outside myself, but first because I worship enduringly the god that is my self. But I complicate things further by going to Mass every week, and I can say big chunks of the Eucharist in Latin. And I spend the whole Christmas season (and much of the rest of the year) singing "Adeste fidelis" in Latin, just because I think it is an amazingly beautiful song. At the same time, when I read this from your mail:

And the day will come, when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His Father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva, in the brain of Jupiter. --Thomas Jefferson
I nod my head in complete agreement for both parts of the argument: To attend to apocryphal stories as anything but stories is foolish, but nevertheless some apocryphal stories, such as that of Athena/Minerva, are great stories. In any case, while I am technically an atheist, at least as regards extra-egoic gods, I am nevertheless among and of the Christians, and I don't--and don't wish to--shun or snub or exclude them.

Third, while I generally don't have much good to say about Pope Sneakoff, Intellectual Error of the Holy Church of the Undying Dead Woman, nevertheless I think this Leonard Peikoff article is pretty good:

Christmas in America is an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life.
I have no trouble at all picturing Missy Rand, all bundled up in her mink, taking in with enraptured delight the ingenuity and effervescence of the Christmas displays in the windows of Lord & Taylor in New York. Singing, laughing, skipping through streets lightly dusted with snow--the lights, the colors, the scent of pine in the air--these are the things of Christmas, and I think the right thing for an egoist to do--for this egoist anyway--is to rejoice in them.

My answer is that the delights of Christmas ought not be wasted because the season is also claimed by people who pursue nothing but misery. Peace on Earth and glad tidings to all men, egoists take the foremost.

Merry Christmas!


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Philosophy; Political Humor/Cartoons
KEYWORDS: athena; christian; christmas; minerva; saturnalia; yule

1 posted on 12/21/2002 8:31:10 PM PST by Greg Swann
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To: Greg Swann
read later
2 posted on 12/21/2002 9:41:59 PM PST by LiteKeeper
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