Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Santa of My Understanding

It finally happened. A few weeks ago, Jack cornered me and demanded the answer to the one question I have long dreaded. I'm prepared for most of the biggies: "How exactly are babies made?"  "Did you ever smoke pot?" "What happens when you die?" and "Why did you and Dad get divorced?" But (strangely) I caught off guard by this simple quiz:

Look closely and you'll see evidence
of Santa's existence.
"Is Santa real?" he asked.

Honestly, I didn't think Jack believed in Santa anymore. I suspected that he'd heard rumors at school and was just playing along.

"What do you think?" I said, deftly lobbing the ball back into his court. I needed to at least buy some time and see where this inquisition was coming from.

"I dont' know," he sad. "That's why I'm asking you."

Crap. My question deflector failed. Time for tactic #2: Change the subject.

"OK," I said. "So ... what do you want for dinner?"

Yes, I was tap dancing for time here; and it worked momentarily as Jack lobbied to have pizza for a second night in a row.

"But Mom," he said. "You didn't answer my question: Is there really a Santa Claus?"

Dang! I was backed into a corner now. There was only one thing left to do: Be honest.

"Well, I believed in him when I was a kid," I said. "And I still think he's real."

I paused for a moment.

"Yes, as far as I can tell, Santa IS real," I said.

"Yeah," Jack said. "I think so, too."

And that was that — for then. The subject came up again the next week, and again I testified to my belief  in Santa and the conversation ended. But Jack isn't convinced and I'm sure it's hard to be a Believer these days when your almost 13 and there's a lot of Santa smack talk going down among your peers.

But in the best possible way, Jack's query tested my own beliefs and made me think. I do believe in Santa, but who is Santa?

The Santa I have come to know and see at work in the world at Christmas time is the embodiment of happiness, unconditional love and joy. The Santa of my understanding is generous and playful and spontaneous. He inspires the world to look for opportunities to give — and to receive —with gratitude, not just at Christmas, but year 'round.

Toward the end of his life, the renowned psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung was asked an equally tough question in a BBC television interview, "Do you believe in God now?" Jung paused, looked right into the camera, smiled and said, "I know. I don't need to believe. I know." By this, I think he meant that he had seen evidence of a Divine power in the world and therefore there he no longer had need for blind faith or belief.*

So if Jack should ask again, I will rely on a mind far greater than mine and borrow Jung's response. I don't need to believe in Santa. I know Santa, I know.

*Jung provided this explanation of his statement in a follow-up letter to BBC TV:
"Only my experience can be good or evil, but I know that the superior will is based upon a foundation which transcends human imagination. Since I know of my collision with a superior will in my own psychical system, I know of God, and if I should venture the illegitimate hypostasis of my image, I would say, of a God beyond good and evil, just as much dwelling in myself as everywhere else: Deus est circulus cuius centrum est ubique, cuis circumferentia vero nusquam. (God is a circle whose center is everywhere, but whose circumference is nowhere.)"

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