Thursday, December 18, 2014

Deathy death death -- Happy holidays!

So I was reading a review of Hozier's concert in LA, and they mentioned that if there was a niche for a death-obsessed hipster guitarist, he fills it nicely. Given that Hozier's album is frankly my current obsession, I went, "hey! That's not true...." But then I thought about it and yeah, it kinda is. But I don't tend see it that way.

Maybe I'm kinda death-focused myself, if I think about it. I find Gothic things resonate for me; questions of immortality and contemplation of other states of being feel comfortable, like old friends, and I regularly question how we know what we are and what others are, and how hard it is to leave any sort of lasting mark behind is when we go. But what does this have to do with anything, you might ask. And how it is related to Christmas, of all things! And right you are to ask such questions, dear reader. Right you are.

This time of year, I find myself particularly thinking of such things. And it's not due to missed relatives and friends long gone, and it's not due to spiritual thoughts dwelling on Christ and his sacrifice for our eternal souls (Christianity makes a hell of a mystery cult, btw). It never has been, although as a kid I was a bit more religious-y focused, though even that was mostly on the carols, and that still holds. It is, if anything, a far more pagan reflection; winter, for me, is an analogue of death.

I know that sounds really harsh, but as a kid I could not help but notice that everything died off during the winter. No plants, no warmth, no bugs, no animals hanging around except the ones we took care of, and in some places even that wasn't enough. If we didn't have houses and heat and food stored, we'd die off too. I read books in which people didn't make it through the winter without help. I read about people dying from a lack of heat and clothing. The Little Match Girl did nothing for this impression either, I have to say, nor did a parade of childrens' fiction that talked in a subdued fashion about people dying in the cold as background to whatever else was going on in the story. It was my first exposure to a hostile environment, one in which our fragility -- the fragility of all living creatures -- was brought to light.

When I was a child, I used to dread winter, the seeming forever-state of cold and wind and blight, and I always wondered whether the sun would come back and bring life with it. Of course, it always did, and thus spring was my favorite season, but winter never went away entirely -- it would return too, and sweep everything before it once again. Not unlike death, I suppose. So there's that connection. I should note, I don't actually fear death, mine or anyone else's (with the exception of my kids and my husband, who aren't allowed to die ever, as far as I'm concerned). Part of that I think has to do with my aspieness, and the weird way it deals with interpersonal relationships. But part of it, too, is that it's what we do. We aren't meant to continue forever. We hope that some part of us will, but it can't ever be more than a simulacrum, a representation of a fleeting facet that gets recorded. And... that's what there is. Anything that exists in an afterlife can't be proven or recorded, and while I'd like there to be a pleasant one, all I can be certain of is that we are incapable of understanding it, whatever it is, in any way. We'll just have to wait until we get there to find out, if there's anywhere to get to at all. In the meantime, I try to live each day so that if I didn't wake up tomorrow, the people around me will know how I feel about them -- it's the least I can do.

Anyway, so Hozier. He deals a lot with what it means to think about dying, and think about love, and think about living. I don't think of those as being overly focused on death, but for him it's all mixed up together in this album, and that's a huge part of why I love it so much, because it's all mixed up for me too. Maybe it's the Celtic influence reaching across the ages in my family, but I think these things have to be all mixed up -- that's why they're beautiful, because beauty is fragile by nature. Nothing lasts forever, and anything that forgets to honor that runs the risk of being dismissive to the things we ought to set as sacred. I appreciate that in him.

In like fashion, I prefer the carols that celebrate the light within the darkness: Joy to the World, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, and so forth. Light is an important celebration for me this time of year, because light is the promise that the dark isn't forever -- that it will pass in its time. Christmas for me is about bringing light out of dark, that we can huddle together and celebrate even in the darkest time -- made the more joyful by recognizing that it is dark beyond the reach of our candles and fires, and that the darkness is not always friendly and clear. We mourn those not with us and drink to the joy of their memories; we bury the past year and look to the rebirth of the next. We call forth the bounty of the year so that we may freshly remember it through the dark months to come, until spring calls forth life once more.

With that in mind.... Merry Christmas, my friends. Be safe in the light, and carry it with you wherever you go, until we meet again.