Christmas Wishes

December 25, 2012

Today I’m thinking about wishes!

Good will toward men! It’s Christmas, and that means wishes and thought experiments. Nothing says midwinter like a gedankenexperiment.

Pick two people, at random, from the whole planet, and put them together. Maybe it’s my idealism showing, but I doubt they harbor each other much ill-will. Not at first — I think maybe good will towards men is something that must be spoiled, reversed.

That’s not to say I don’t expect some darker emotions to turn up between the two strangers: Fear. Envy. Embarrassment. Shame. Those are the emotions that lurk around the edge of my inner vision when I meet a stranger. And from there, well, Yoda knows how that goes.

Fear is a great and terrible thing. No matter how much we need each other, how much we want company, there’s still that little danger voice. “What if they don’t speak my language? What if they’re rapists? What if they’re murderers? What if they just want to use me? What if they just find me amusing? What if they think I’m a rapist, a murderer? Better not. Best not. Polite and reserved. For the best.”

Fuck you, little voice.

It would be nice to banish those emotions for a year; to, rather than wish you goodwill, wish you freedom, ignorance, escape: freedom from fear, ignorance of shame, escape from embarrassment.

I want my wishes to come true, though. I can’t imagine our two random friends seeing each other in the total absence of wariness. Fear has function.

So I’m going to wish for piles of fear. Heaps of shame. Gluttonous mounds of embarrassment. I want to swim in them, those lesser dark emotions, those gray-gravy emotions. I want to learn to act in spite of them. If I can’t rid myself of fear and shame, I want to become immune to them — an asymptomatic carrier.

Perhaps their absence is impossible. But there’s a word, I suppose, for the ability to act in the face of such emotions. If those two strangers took each others arms and acted like old friends, despite fear, I’d call them “brave.” Don’t you think?

So Merry Christmas! And for the coming year: may the universe grant us overwhelming lessons in bravery. It’s not “for the best,” but it might be for the better.