Yes, Virginia, There is STILL a Santa Claus Read Christmas Story
RAPHIE FRANK :: BUSINESS ARTIVIST
Raphie Frank is a New York City-based interactive producer, writer, photographer and designer with sixteen years of hands-on cross-industry experience in a variety of managerial, creative and technical capacities in media including journalism, film & video, theater, music, commercial design and marketing communications. At heart, however, he considers himself a storyteller with the desire to tell reality-based stories with happy hopeful endings. He is currently engaged in a process to create the stories he wants to write about within a business context.
photo courtesy Ana Crisan
Read some of the links below, and then take a look at the picture at bottom. If Ana’s fight for Chris Gardiner is not an example of courage at it’s finest, I do not know what is…
Here is a letter I sent out to “Calder Lorenz of The News is Now Public.” I believe it gives an overview of what I find myself referring to as Toronto’s “Homes to Houses” Push, kicking people hurting noone out of their homes and off the streets…
And this is Ana’s original appeal. I fight for Ana because she is fighting for her homeful, homeless friend Chris. I believe in her and she believes in him…
And who is Ana?
See, Mysti, we fight for the people we care about. And our natural allies are the people with whom we share common interests, passions, hopes or desires. My connection to you, Mysti is that you are an optimist and know better. I found you through another photographer who liked you and so that influenced my opinion of you because I respect his judgement.
There was once a war and many people died. There was also much collateral damage. The people were the collateral. And everyone saw who bothered to look, but pretended they didn’t. But there was one girl, a shining, sprite pixie of a blond with an amber smile who DID notice. And DID something. Not at the time — she was too young — but later, the next time she saw it happening. She went straight into the belly of the beast and shined the light she had inside outward so the world could see all the broken pieces that all the King’s horses and all the King’s men could not. And she tried to put humpty dumpty back together again, and she made a LOT of progress, but then it got dangerous, very dangerous, too dangerous even for this brave girl, and she couldn’t risk it anymore, staying where she was, and she recognized she needed to get away.
Her name was Marla, Marla Ruzicka and she died, trying to make her way home, in the flash of a car bomb that took her to the wrong side of the light for all us on the road to the airport in Baghdad April 16, 2005. She was but 28 years old and walked corridors with Senators, not behind, not in front, but beside, but also maybe behind and certainly in front too. Now we will all have to continue her work, because it will
take a village to finish the task that she began. She did it for us all. And now we’ve all got to give it back, not for her, but for all of us, but also for her. To honor the gifts she gave us.
Her favorite thing to do was to dance, and maybe that’s what we ought to do, all of us, this holiday season, if not on the ground, then in our heads and through our actions. Not for Marla, but for ourselves, but call it for Marla if that’s what you need to do to make it worthwhile enough.
May Peace and Sanity Will Out,
P.S. If you like this story, pass it on. If you don’t, think about passing it on anyway so you can ask yourself “why not?”
“This man knows how to lead and he did” said President Bush a few days ago of Donald Rumsfeld in a grand, ceremonial sendoff. Read Story
Snipes, Logomancy & So So Psychosis could not agree more. Mr.Rumsfeld, according to Cheney, "our nation’s finest Defence Secretary," led us all right, straight into our nation’s worst foreign policy debacle since Vietnam, managing somehow to miss the twelve volume State Department plan that foresaw just about every potential obstacle that eventually came to pass, or rather, block, the new and peaceful Iraq we will now never know may or may not have come to pass.
So, in this time of Holiday cheer, I just want to say:
You did a helluva job Rummy.
I salute you for it and wish a pleasant, healthy and safe Christmas to you and yours… AT HOME. I imagine you to be a wonderful and engaging storyteller somewhere in a gabled cozy mansion around a fired family hearth. Oh, I know, going home is not quite the upgrade from the White House hallowed halls as the Astrodome was for all those lucky "refugees" who managed down in New Orleans to escape those Attic-ish nightmare deaths, gasping for breath like so many Christmas carp in Prague, but still, sir, not so bad.
Just give it time. The third time, they say, is a charm and I am sure you have learned much, serving under TWO American Presidents, George W. Bush and… Richard M. Nixon. How is that, again, you were able to get past White House security? Ah, right, my mistake, this is the neo-Reagan Administration and, no disrespect to our President’s feel-good predecessor, but security in this administration is of a distinctly Voodoo nature.
Perhaps of interest to a few readers believing we have been protected by this administration is a post I wrote a while back, Voodoo Security here on Political Cortex. The fact of the matter, folks, is that we’ve got a 3X better chance in the world of death by terrorism under Bush than we did under Clinton even after adjusting for those extinguished Thousand Points of Light Through the Ariadne Maze.
To paraphrase the tagline over on SameFacts.com, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but not his or own facts. All the same, it’s just got to be telling opinion-wise that as of May 2004 81% of historians already rated George Bush’s Presidency a failure…
Thank you, Mr. Rumsfeld for your leadership in the absence of Presidential leadership. We all appreciate it, I believe, and that’s a fact. You may as well not believe in Santa Claus.
Related Writings From the Voice of the Lost Center
Iraq-related Must Reads for Every American and World Citizen of Conscience
There is No Tomorrow: The Delusional is No Longer Marginal (Bill Moyers)
The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of Our Own Collective Psychosis (Paul Levy)
The Debate Within & Selective Intelligence (Seymour Hersh for The New Yorker)
The Impeachment of George W, Bush (Elizabeth Holtzman for The Nation)
Cheney Authorized Libby to Disclose Classified Documents (Professor Juan Cole, U of M)
Vice President for Torture (Washington Post editorial)
Mourning Marla (Jim Carroll)
Click on the links in this post folks. This ain’t funny anymore. As Mulder from the X-Files might have said, "The truth is out there" and we’ve got to let people know.
Ah, indeed, all roads do converge in the artistic world I have increasingly come to term "thought art," a thoroughly inexpensive alternative to, say, wrapping the Reichstag, or Gating Central Park, requiring not so much as a paint brush or a camera to partake.
Months ago I published the results of The Happiness Survey and right around the same time I put up a post entitled What is Prospect Theory? actually the post in this little tiny corner of the blogosphere that has received the most number of hits. Little did I know that behind both posts was the mind of one very original "thought artist, Daniel Kahneman (Update: actually the Happiness survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center), a world-reknowned psychologist best known for his groundbreaking work in the fields of behavioral finance and hedonic psychology
According to the Daily Princetonian, in an article from January of 2005:
A national quality of life index based on a new research method may soon supplement indicators like the gross domestic product.
Noble laureate and Wilson School professor
Daniel Kahneman and economist Alan Krueger were part of an
inter-university team that developed the Day Reconstruction Method for
measuring the emotional quality of people’s daily experiences…
According to the article Kahneman holds that "the new approach is necessary for measuring the ‘burden of disease’ that results from the stress of daily life."
Call Kahneman my new hometown hero and rewind the clock back 39 years and change, back to the day my father, then a Princeton Professor of Economics (the youngest ever at the time) received an annoying call from one of his students. "I’d love to talk to you," my father said, "but my wife has gone into labor and I have to take her to the hospital."
"Please, Professor Frank," the brushed off student retorted in distinctly unhappy timbre. If you don’t want to talk to me, then just tell me, but don’t expect me to fall for that! Do you think I’m stupid!?!"
Or he said something like that. I was there to hear it, but all those contractions my mother was having kind of muffled the voice on the other end of the phone. A few hours later, in quite possibly the fastest pop off to the hospital and pop out to the world ever, I was born at Princeton Hospital at around 8:15pm. The day was Monday, September 4th, 1967: Labor Day, the Summer of Love.
I’ve been trying to get back home ever since, but I took the scenic route. One day, though, I believe I’ll get there. And that’s the point. Belief, right along with hope; it’s a factor of production and I think Professor Kahnemann may know a thing or two we should ALL be listening to…
Art, for me, is all about the Light in the most literal, but also most figurative, of senses. The medium through which the light travels is irrelevant; as much the word or the song or the clay or light itself as the image. In whatever form it takes, I seek to sculpt it, write it, edit it, paint it, carve it, compose or weave it into bundled forms of expression that refract inside to touch the thousand aspects of the self and outside to touch the thousand aspects of the other. Expressions that then bounce and bend and refract back again; colliding and weaving together across space and through time fashioning constellations of subjective and shared meaning alike.
That place where all roads meet and the one becomes the many and the many the one like a brilliant sun; in that moment, in that instant we sometimes call “eternity” that light shines through as a smiled melody sounding through even the most shattering of sorrows.
I’m going to have to cancel my subscription to National Geographic–Sam’s photos are better. – ozoni11
My answer to you… is that, yes, Virginia, Santa still exists… And how do I know that? I know it always by the childlike faith we cling to that yet makes “tolerable this existence,” and by the intensity of the disappointment we still feel when that faith is injured. For me, at least, Santa Claus exists not just “as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist,” but perhaps even more so. In fact, it may just be that Santa and the childlike faith he gives us are exactly what make love, generosity and devotion possible in the first place.
I am writing you now in response to your recent email inquiring as to whether or not there is still a Santa Claus. By way of answering you, I’d like to tell you a little story.
My father is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Idolizing him as I did as a child, it was natural that I also idolized his home town sports teams. I was passionate about the Steel Curtain Steelers of Terry Bradshaw, But it was a toss up if I loved them or the "We Are Family" old-timey outfitted Pirates of Willie "Pops" Stargell . To this day I’m still a Steelers fan, but the Pirates lost my undying allegiance one day, twenty-seven years ago at Three Rivers Stadium. That day, standing in the first row near third base during batting practice as a fresh-faced ten year old, Willie tossed a souvenir baseball not to me, but to that sickeningly cute seven year old kid standing next to me.
Interestingly enough, I think that moment bothered me more than — sorry to blow the lid on this, Virginia — finding out my parents were Santa Claus four years previous. On some level I already knew Santa was a fraud even before Brian Kux, my red-haired neighbor two doors down back in Washington D.C., cemented into eternity my collapsed North Pole house-of-card illusions one Christmas Day. Playing outside together with our new toys, he told me with an almost conspiratorial glee that he had seen his parents putting presents under the Christmas tree the night before. It didn’t come as much of a surprise and, although he was a full year older than me, I didn’t need his wizened input to immediately understand the exact implications of what that meant. The writing had already been on the wall for some time now.
After all, Santa looked different every time we met at the shopping mall and sometimes he was in two places at once; I would see him again on the way home from the mall collecting money for the Salvation Army on a street corner, the helicopter he’d come to the mall in nowhere in sight. And didn’t Santa use a sleigh anyway? I knew there was something fishy going on by the time I was four.
But Willie? He was my hero and he was still as real and certain to me at ten years old as my conviction was at three that one day I would be older than my six year old sister. I’d seen him hit towering home runs over the fence in center field for crying out loud! You couldn’t fake that! I’d seen him swing the bat with such vigor that his body had windmilled around to a point where his knees buckled and he collapsed to the ground in an over-sized brown, black and gold heap. And when he got up, his sheepish grin was visible even to me 20 rows back in shallow left field. To this day I know Willie Stargell bats lefty, if only because I can still play that swing back in my head as easily as one might hit the review button on a DVD player .
Then came that fateful day at the stadium in 1978. Willie had been warming up over by third base, playing catch with some other long since forgotten player, and I was there cheering his every throw and catch along with about 10 other wild-eyed, adoring fans. But then it was getting close to game time and so it was time to head back toward the dugout. Willie caught the ball one last time and gave his mitt a ritual slap of finality. Then, glove in hand, ball in mitt, he half-ambled, half-trotted toward us. Twenty feet away. Fifteen feet. Ten. Five feet away! I had never been this close to him!
Effortlessly and almost lackadaisically, he scooped the ball from the mitt. We all knew exactly why. Ten high-pitched voices were screaming at him in cacophonous unison to throw the ball "to me! me! throw it to me!" But I knew I loved him more than anyone else. I was sure he would be able to see that. How could he not? Our eyes made brief, fleeting, contact. How could he not see such devotion? How could he not see I didn’t live in Pittsburgh and this might be his only chance ever to give me such a coveted trophy? At that moment I was sure, I was utterly positive, that Willie would toss that ball to me.
And then he paused. He hesitated. For about a half second his eyes darted hoppingly from one kid to the next. And then he flipped the ball. He flipped it… right to that kid, that seven year old kid standing next to me; that kid, who, even if he loved Willie as intensely as I did, could not possibly have loved him more than I, if only because I had loved him longer.
I was devastated.
It was the first time a hero of mine ever let me down. I was still a Pirates fan after that and sang “We Are Family” as loudly as anyone else the next year when the Pirates won the World Series against my almost home-town Baltimore Orioles. All the same, something had been lost. Now it was only winning that mattered, not believing. To be certain, I still played at believing, just as up to the age of eleven or so I still sometimes fancied hearing Santa’s sleigh bells tintinnabulating across distant rooftops in those anxious moments before sleep on Christmas Eve. But it just wasn’t the same. I’ve never been much of a Pirates, or Willie Stargell, fan since.
About five years ago I was in Pittsburgh visiting my grandfather just before he passed away and I told that story to my great uncle Bill. As it turned out, he had some connection to the Pirates and, although I laughed at the offer, he went ahead anyway and put in a request with the organization to get me that ball twenty-two years later. This time, though, autographed. Autographed by none other than Willie Stargell himself.
The organization said no.
I know that Willie himself probably never even saw the request – he was quite ill and passed away 4 months later – nor would that baseball mean as much to me now as it would have then, so I didn’t even think twice about it at the time. Still, as I reflect back on that episode five years ago, I am struck by a nagging sense of melancholy surrounding it. I don’t know which is sadder, that that baseball was denied me yet again, or that this time it didn’t bother me.
The moral to this story? Perhaps it’s just that we shouldn’t place too much stock in childhood illusion. Or maybe the story simply highlights in a pointed manner the unfair pressure we put on our heroes to live up to a different , more perfect, standard than the rest of us. Or perhaps, maybe, just maybe, the lesson is a bit darker, nothing more than a cruel recognition that no matter how much you love, it might never be enough, and it might never be returned, or returned only for a time. With that recognition comes what might just be my least favorite part of growing up, knowing enough to expect so little that disappointments cease to disappoint.
If nothing else, Virginia, I wish I had been a little older before learning that lesson. If nothing else, I realize that I’m disappointed after all that the Pirates said no to my Uncle Bill. Not because I particularly want that ball any more, but because I would love to be able to tell some ten year old kid somewhere this same story and have the ending be a hopeful, happy one.
I am sorely disappointed that I can’t. But the very fact of that disappointment also makes me hopeful. Hopeful if for no other reason than because enough childhood illusion remains within that I can yet experience such disappointment.
Which brings us full circle back to your inquiry regarding Santa Claus. Does he still exist? My answer to you, Brian Kux be damned, is that, yes, Virginia, Santa still exists. He exists at least as much as he existed when first you asked that question of the New York Sun a little more than a hundred years ago. He doesn’t live on the North Pole, though. I was right about that. No, Virginia, he lives in your heart, in mine, in all of ours. He was in my parents’ hearts when they put those presents under the tree each year. He was in the hearts of all those fraud Santas flying about in helicopters and standing on street corners. And he was even in Willie Stargell’s heart that day so long ago when, unknowingly, he broke my heart, but gave to the least amongst us, that seven year old kid, a thrill and a souvenir he probably still treasures to this day.
And how do I know that? I know it always by the childlike faith we cling to that yet makes “tolerable this existence,” and by the intensity of the disappointment we still feel when that faith is injured. For me, at least, Santa Claus exists not just “as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist,” but perhaps even more so. In fact, it may just be that Santa and the childlike faith he gives us are exactly what make love, generosity and devotion possible in the first place.
I hope this answers your question, Virginia. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and a festive as the dickens 117th birthday.
Dedicated to the dance, and to the dream, and to the hope that we may all one day find again the light we have so many of us lost once upon a yesterday, that we may find it again once upon a tomorrow.