Sunday, December 30, 2007

Critical Mass

This year for Christmas Eve, I did something that I had never done before: I went to midnight mass. Now, I am not a Catholic, or even a Christian, but my best friend and I wanted to see the inside of the Cathedral, and this seemed as good a chance as any.

Having been, now, I have to say I was deeply moved. Not because of the religious content, mind you; I remain as committed a secular humanist as ever. And certainly not because it evoked the supposed "true meaning" of Christmas. No, I was moved because at every moment I could see that those responsible for the event were convinced that this was something to be taken absolutely seriously. The decoration, the music, even the man who held the door -- every detail was clearly done with one thought ever-present: this is no time to rush, or fake, or skimp. It must be done right and done well.

It is this kind of seriousness of purpose that often seems to me to be lacking in most human endeavours. Nearly everything, even very important things like education, and art, and architecture are very often done with half-efforts and a pervasive sense of something-is-better-than-nothing.

Christmas, happily enough, is often a time when people get a surge of seriousness, I think. It's only once a year, and if there is real value in the ceremonies of Christmas -- finding the right present, preparing the perfect meal -- maybe it is the chance, at least once a year, to take things seriously. To try, if only this one time, to get things just right.

So maybe I learned something about the true meaning of Christmas after all. See you all next year. Seriously.