There was a time when I, too, confused art with entertainment. When very young I tended to assume, as all young humans do, that everything in the world around was designed to stimulate me. Its value was primarily, if not entirely, in what it had to offer the pleasure centers of my nascent little brain. Fortunately, I grew out of that. Not all of us do.
But there is another reason I chose not to listen to the secret wisdoms buried inside the sugary presentations of the books and television specials. They seemed a bit over the top. That can't happen, I thought. The real world was much more humdrum, and luckily for me, far less prone to existential crises than was the one on television. Adventures were had to escape the predictable routine, but they did not tell us what to expect from life, or how to deal with those adversities.
Live long enough, though, and you will see reality do all kinds of things it wasn't supposed to do. Time bends, light is subject to gravity, and now and then, we really are about to lose the bedrock of our happy little lives, one piece of it at a time.
For all of those years of my childhood it was Christmas that was constant under attack of not coming and needing to be saved. Nobody seemed to realize that one day it would actually be Easter that didn't come. Or at least, the way it was supposed to.
When the Grinch grinchily stuffed all 8,000 of the Who's little Christmas packages into his enormous bag and managed to get them all up to the top of his private mountain, he learned a lesson that we were all supposed to learn, comfortably, and from a safe distance.
I watched the animated version of the tale last year for the first time in many Christmases. The first thing I realized was that the Whos were a seriously consumerist bunch of little buggers who did in fact purchase everything you could imagine and seemed intent on going all out. The second, of course, is the thing you remember, which was that on Christmas morning, with all of their stuff gone, without tears and recriminations, and without missing a beat, they all gathered in the town square to sing and to celebrate the day, presents or no.
And in the real world, last Sunday, Easter came, ready or not. Those of us who are used to gathering in churches managed to find community in front of our computers, with all of our brethren gathered in little boxes like the cable news shows had taken a large dose of steroids. Those for whom dinner is the main, or only, attraction of the day must have found virtual meetings to be similarly accommodating for their families. We had dinner with some of ours that way. Otherwise it would have just been the two of us and our cat.
Whatever you think the message of Easter is, it comes anyway, with or without the traditions or our ability to mark the day according to our own wishes. The ability to recognize that it exists independently of our need to observe it in any particular manner is a way to achieve peace.
There are other messages I wish we would learn from our corpus of movies, books, and television endlessly recycling our collective mythology. One of the themes we could absorb is that a powerful person who values personal loyalty above service to a greater good is not a good person. Or that letting feelings of hate take charge of you never has a good outcome. The consequences of these choices are playing out in America now, writ large.
Our mythologies go much deeper if we want them to, and tell us things about death and rebirth, conflict and companionship, and all manner of secrets pointing to a life well lived. But in a society with an attention span not gauged to value these things we will let one miracle of modern technology charm us into the realization that one day, and all that it can represent, can come to us under any circumstances. It cannot be lost because it was never ours in the first place.