my daily bliss

Today at work I heard a Christmas song. I think it was Bing Crosby's version of "Frosty the Snowman." It played over the Christmas satellite radio station that gets piped through the whole store, through tinny speakers, usually all but lost in the ambient white noise of the vents blowing dusty, recycled air. And for anybody that has to listen to it--if you do hear the music day-in and day-out throughout the Christmas season--it becomes rather tiresome. An understatement perhaps. So I might say, without much fear of contradiction, that it becomes the retailer's incessant irritant, the straw that all but cripples the camel and makes for the longest and most tiring days. Of course, there is always the constant customer pressure, which undoubtedly begins to wear on the nerves, but it seems that Christmas music bears the brunt of the retailer's wrath during the Christmas season. It spills over to taint Christmas parties and tarnish those warm, holly jolly moments at home around the tree--any place where that dreaded music begins, it seems to echo and amplify within the hollow chamber that used to fill with warmth and good cheer by the same auditory stimulus. It used to be that there was a sense of magic and awe that surrounded the Christmas season--I suppose partly due to the legendary Santa Claus and partly the grace of all those gifts. There was a time when the music was like magic, when it would conjure brightly coloured packages and reindeer and a gilded evergreen from the very bare air. But I suppose the utter bliss of Christmas fades, partly when the legend becomes myth and partly when the joy of giving begins to outweigh the anticlimax of getting. Or perhaps that's not the case at all and what really happens, as happens with almost everything else, is that we simply lose our sense of wonder, our awe at the intricate delight of all things as we grow older. The beauty, the mystery, and the majesty of springtime rains and fresh buds, slow-falling snow and visible puffs of breath, the cycles of seasons and the cycles of life... All of it begins to fade into the background, becomes taken for granted. But every once in a while, wonder still bursts through our pragmatic vision of the world and ripples our easy understanding, our blase attitude. And then we wake up. And then we remember...

Well, today I remembered. I heard through the white noise, the background music that had become (at best) un-notable or (at worst) willfully disregarded, and I heard the wonder and awe of Christmas in a burble of emotions and a swelling of memories and sensations. I wouldn't have expected "Frosty" to bring all that back to me, but suddenly and unexpectedly, he did. And if you remember that old cartoon with the crank magician who threw away his hat, then you'll remember the kids who used it for their snowman and how he came to life; and you'll also remember Frosty's gentle voice. I guess it's something like that, some chain of recollections, that finally reminded me of what Christmas used to feel like. And it's not just that it's changed feelings, but it's changed associations. Now when I think of Christmas, I don't think of the magic of softly falling snow or evergreen trees, or even that ancient manger that made history (quite literally). I think of piles of junk and adverts and someone trying to sell me something. That's worth some mourning, I think. But today, as I said, Frosty reminded me, in his gentle and impossible snowman's voice that there was some magic left. That it had never really gone anywhere.

I guess this could come across as a big farce, as some cheesy, feel-good attempt at heart-warming sentimentality, but I don't mean for it to come across that way at all. I hope , rather, that it conjures some sense of loss and some sense of found. I hope that it reminds you what it did feel like--not simply in a nostalgic way, but in a real and significant way--and what it could feel like again. I hope that you can see, for one bright and golden moment, that the magic hasn't really gone--it's just that our vision to see it has been dulled with time.

And it's not just a call to return to the "spirit of Christmas" or to meditate on the joy of the true meaning of the season; it's a reminder that all of life has become the same, all of life has become rather dull. And maybe it's just that today was lucky, but I found myself wandering home in a bit of a wonderland--cool and still, snowflakes seeming to hang in the air, almost as in a snow globe, with bare, black branches tangled against the gray sky, and all around the soft and crunchy fresh fallen snow. In that moment, walking along Rosedale Avenue, I realized the magic and wonder of the moment. I remembered what it felt like to be delirious in a wonder-filled world.

As Emily Dickinson wrote:

I had a daily bliss
I half indifferent viewed,
Till suddenly I perceived it stir,--
It grew as I pursued,

Till when, around a crag,
It wasted from my sight,
Enlarged beyond my utmost scope,
I learned its sweetness right.

And there it was, laid out before me, a daily bliss--half-forgot in all the shuffle of things-to-do and places-to-go... Suddenly, it grew beyond my imagination and I glimpsed Eternity, touched down in a moment, telescoped through all temporality... Suddenly, I was filled with wonder.


chris write more

Many long and arduous months have passed since I last posted here... For those who have eagerly awaited a new post and some fresh writing to stretch itself out here in this virtual space, I thank you for your patience and persistence in your faithful, perhaps sporadic, visits to my unchanging blog. I remember all my good intentions, when I wrote last January, about how I would update more frequently and use this space to hone my writing. But they just seem to dissolve into the ether of things to do and scattered living...

I tried, shortly after my last post, to write something new. I was on the fourth floor at Millenium Library at the computer banks nestled along the back wall among the stacks of non-fiction. It was a Sunday afternoon, March 18th, and I was feeling unsettled trying to move on in my day. The school season was almost finished, my final semester of classes, reading thick and heady volumes of philosophy and theory and literature, and I was consequently swimming in minor indecision about what should come next, wondering what kind of effect my personal, relational, emotional constitution were having on my "professional" life (which, up to this point, had been a student's life, but was soon to become the direction of whatever came next--whether writing or community work or stopgap work or a full-blown career). That Sunday morning, I'd spent over a leisurely breakfast with a friend that left me feeling profoundly unsettled about my values and my role in life. And as I sat down to write, these thoughts bubbled in my mind, and this is what I wrote...

There are many people in the world, and in among all those people there are only a handful with which we are able to establish a lasting bond. If you look at your life, you can probably name them--the ones that linger in your memory and remind you that you feel a little less alone when they are around: in many cases, these are the people we marry; the people we tell our secrets to; the ones we talk with late into the night. They are the people for which we can give no account of except that we find them easy to be around because they simply understand us. But there always comes a time of decision--a point at which we realize that we need to work at that connection if it is to hold. There are fears and misgivings at these points...

And with that, I felt the burning in my soul, felt the restless spirit rear up--

I saved the draft of a post that would never be finished and I went to find a pack of cigarettes... It'd been almost 2 months since I quit smoking and I felt that I had a pretty good handle on not doing it. I felt like I knew my trigger points and how to deal with cravings and what to do when I felt unreasonably drawn to them... But in this moment, it all failed me, I didn't care anymore, and I beelined out of the library and crossed Donald to CityPlace to find a pack of Number 7's. I stood in the courtyard behind the library, the banks of snow surrounding me, and I drew heavily on the familiar addiction, toying with thoughts of fate and absolution of responsibility and divine providence. Perhaps I simply was a smoker. I looked up at the sheet of windows that cover the southern facing library windows, seeing the reflection off and up into the atmosphere, and I pondered the direction of my life...

Lately, I've been having an almost constant crisis of purpose. I wonder what I should be doing and whether it's selfish ambition or my actual calling, whether it's simply a hobby or very deeply my vocation. And how much can I--should I--possibly sacrifice for it? It seems that whoever it is that I'm becoming follows directly from all the choices and decisions and investments I make now. That is, whoever it is that I will be begins right now. Begins in the ripple of this present moment...

Whether it needs to be said or not, I gave up smoking three days later. It was easier the second time--the habit was already cracked. But I was left wondering, perhaps floundering, for a few days (maybe weeks, arguably months)... There's still so many questions, still the usual struggles over how to spend my time, my money, my emotions... And in the end, I come back to the thought that the person I am becoming begins right now. In this moment, in this present heartbeat, I am choosing who it is that I will be. In this moment, I am becoming.

So please bear with me...