This is my Sunday column for the Dec. 23, 2012 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Merry Christmas and/or Happy New Year to all!
So this is Christmas
By Aaron J. Brown
You know that Christmas can be all kinds of trouble when you get an e-mail from the Human Resources department at work telling you that it really, really, really is no big deal if you can’t bake at that stuff like you planned. Even though you said you would, and that you were raised to keep your word, the people who love you will understand. And they do love you, assures my HR department. There’s no reason to stress out.
Ah, there it is. Stress. Stress is expensive to America because it eats into productivity, the only thing keeping our empire afloat (don’t stress out about this; the empire is counting on you). Stress causes conflict, the degradation of relationships and physical ailments, such as ulcers or getting punched in the face.
Most of our economy is based on things that cause or claim to relieve stress. We love cars, but hate traffic. Cars are made of steel, which comes from mills and mines, which requires miners to cut loose after a long day’s work. Miners go to the bar and talk about cars. Cars are great — except, of course, for the one owned presently. That one is a hunk of garbage.
This paradox brings us to what, for Christians anyway, is the most important religious and family holiday of the year: Christmas. Even other religions regard this time of year as spiritually significant and those who do not subscribe to a religion still probably subscribe to cable television, where a marathon of animated Christmas specials from the 1980s is airing right now. Some of them are alright to watch if there’s nothing else on.
Several years ago Martha Stewart and a bum rush of interior decorating consultants revolutionized the way we (and by “we,” I mean people with disposable income) celebrate Christmas. This added stressful demands for elaborate “creative” tasks to the previous list of cooking, cleaning, buying gifts, wrapping presents and locating the children in the snow bank you tossed them into. Now this phenomenon has shot itself up with ‘roids and calls itself “Pinterest.”
Pinterest is a website, OK, and if that sort of thing freaks you out just skip down to the part about the water balloons. But for those who might be interested, Pinterest is a particular kind of website that allows people to share, among other things, elaborate creative ideas in an aesthetically pleasing magazine-like format. That all sounds very sophisticated, of course, but to be honest the whole thing led to me spraying water all over my bathroom with balloons that were being turned into “ice orbs,” so I don’t know what to think anymore.
So it’s cold out, right. Water freezes. You fill up a water balloon and “place food coloring into the balloon” before tying it and putting it outside. Once it’s frozen, cut off the balloon and you’ve got yourself a bona fide “ice orb,” suitable for back-lighting and posting on the internet.
And it’s a really great idea, until you realize (upon revisiting water balloon physics for the first time in many years) that when you fill a balloon with water, its natural inclination is to spray that water out like rum from a very bad elf. There will be no “gentle dripping of dye” into the balloon under such conditions, trust me on this one. What has to happen is you place the food coloring into the balloon FIRST and then put in the water, turning the exercise of tying the water balloon into a delicate operation akin to defusing a suitcase bomb.
The orbs are pretty, though.
In coming days we see our families and share our stress-addled lives with one another. Our cups and plates runneth over with the laborious fruits of holiday stress. If all goes well, we survive long enough to sigh gratefully that we survived and maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t so bad.
Maybe, just maybe, love, especially for others, can conquer stress better than anything else.
Aaron J. Brown is an author and community college instructor from the Iron Range. He writes MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts 91.7 KAXE’s Great Northern Radio Show on public stations.