Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Holy Trinity of My Mental Health (revisited)



Mr Wong, Booboots and my beloved Bunyip have an immense therapeutic effect on me, thank heaven!

Today was one of those days when I went to bed as Vishnu (the Preserver) and woke up as Shiva (the Destroyer). What happened? NOTHING! But the silly season approaches and, as usual, it brings out the worst in me. If I had my finger on a Red Button I'd be sorely tempted to press it and let the whole shebang be blown to smithereens like some unnamed Mongolian woman (who, Imigresen insists, never visited Malaysia). On days like this I tend to view the entire human experiment as an abysmal failure - Homo sapiens, my foot! More like a nest of contentious lice with all their stupid conflicts over primitive belief systems.

This year it was compounded by the fact that yesterday was a public holiday (Hari Raya Haji) and the banks were closed - which meant some money deposited in my account on Thursday won't clear till Christmas Eve or maybe even after Boxing Day, leaving me with exactly RM111.70 in my wallet plus a residue of RM9.12 in my Maybank account. Of course, I wouldn't be quite so cheesed off if this pathetic country called Bolehland believed in paying freelancers on time.

Wrote a feature for a national daily back in August and I'm still waiting for the measly payment of - what, RM250? It's absolutely indefensible and outrageous - and Malaysians have the gall to publicly lament the dearth of full-time writers. Where are all the great novelists? Well, you'll find a pile of skeletal remains on Desolation Row with notably large skulls who all perished waiting for checks in the post.

What is it about Christmas - or Kerismas (as Dean Johns recently called it in a barbed piece he wrote for Malaysiakini) - that brings out the Beast, if not the Scrooge, in me? When I asked myself many, many years ago why people living in the tropics would send each other greeting cards with images of reindeer, wintry landscapes, pine forests, and white-bearded fat men in red suits, I realized that most folks are totally unoriginal - and, what's more alarming, they hardly ever think, except perhaps in pre-programmed loops with default settings. After 130 years of British rule, many Anglophile middle-class Malaysians have adopted "Xmas" as their own celebration, without researching the origins of what once was a pagan celebration of the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. December 21 or 22 marks the longest night of the year in the north and the mid-point of winter (in the southern hemisphere it would be the peak of summer). To cheer themselves up after weeks of dreary weather, folks celebrated the symbolic renewal of life after a period of hibernation with a big feast and lots of wine. Sometimes these parties would get a little orgiastic, especially with guys carrying mistletoe sprigs around just so they could kiss any girl they chanced upon. People sure knew how to have fun back then.

Then the reptilian Roman Church came along and co-opted the pagan festival, declaring it to be a celebration of the birth of Christ Jesus (whose actual birthday, according to some scholars, was October 4th). It was all a matter of political expediency and mass mind control. Centuries later, December 25th was hijacked by the retail business and turned into a paean to gross consumerism.

Flashing lights, sparkly baubles, and plastic pine trees became a billion-dollar industry - along with gift wrapping, fancy ribbons, frozen turkeys and imported Christmas pudding. Knowing all this, I found it hard to go along with the fake jolliness and greed-driven bonhomie of this aggressively marketed consumerist festival. Okay, so it was an excuse for far-flung families to get together - well and fine - but the pressure of exchanging gifts invariably gets to me. I enjoy giving presents spontaneously, when so inspired - not because it's expected. Five decades after I discovered the truth about Christmas, the tradition rages on undiminished - with the same old mindless carols and silly Santa songs blaring from every department store p.a. and vaguely Christian household.

Most folks say they love the cheery atmosphere around Christmas. Something must be wrong with me, I'm more likely to feel depressed. But then I've always been one of those misfits who absolutely detests campfire songs. Guess I'd never make the grade as a populist politico. I despise the Lowest Common Denominator far too much. People who subscribe to the Lowest Common Denominator know how to write hit tunes according to formulas decreed by market surveys; they know precisely what the public wants - and unabashedly dish it to them. Sensational tabloid headlines, mindless slogans like "Malaysia Boleh!"... wrestling videos... T-shirts emblazoned with popular football club insignia... great stuff, it sells like hot cakes!

Well, I allow myself to rant and rave and turn my nose up at the great unwashed one day out of every year - the other 364 days I'm a pretty upbeat and positive-thinking sort of fellow. In any case, those who spout idiocies like the Bottom Line and capitalize on the Lowest Common Denominator will probably end up in the Lowest Consciousness Domains come Non-Judgment Day.

Anyway, Happy Solstice, folks! I'm okay now. My mood lifted as soon as I saw Mr Wong smiling at me like the Dog of Dogs he truly is. Then I went down to the river with Ahau and Anoora (escorted by the canine corps) and after a minute under the best jacuzzi in the universe, my grumpy feelings were washed clean away. There was an Indian family picnicking at our usual spot and I felt my heart chakra expand as I silently blessed them all on this sacred day - and I realized I don't have what it takes to be a Great Dictator or Evil Emperor, since I can't stay angry with humans for more than a few minutes.

[First posted 21 December 2007]
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