OPINION | What’s worth celebrating?


What’s worth celebrating?

At this time of year, it’s pretty hard for Americans not to be caught up in seasonal celebrations: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza. Any culture or subculture has certain regular events that everyone is expected to participate in. Of course, you don’t have to observe Thanksgiving, but if you don’t you’ll probably be expected to explain why. And if you’re vocal about your disdain for Christmas, you’ll likely be branded a scrooge or a grinch.

For those of a dualistic bent, it could be said that there are two kinds of people in the world: those for whom life consists of a events, and those for whom it’s a series of Events. (Dualism is a slippery slope. It could also be said that the world is made up of those who separate the world into two groups and those who don’t.)

People who live for Events sometimes seem as though they’re merely marking time until the next one occurs. They live a life of anticipation: only __ more days until _______.

Uppercase Event people tend to be good planners. They know who’s going to bring the mashed potatoes and who’s responsible for the pumpkin pie. They make sure there will be enough chairs and place settings.

Uppercase folks are also organized. They make guest lists and seating charts. They know just which box has the outdoor lights and where in the basement it’s stored.

Lowercase event people aren’t necessarily opposed to Events, but they don’t live for them. They’re more laissez-faire than their uppercase counterparts, more comfortable with the spontaneous or extemporaneous or emergent.

Of course, some lowercase folks hate Events. It may be because they don’t like hoopla, or because they think the heightened expectations surrounding Events inevitably lead to disappointment, or because a focus on the destination blinds one to the pleasures of the journey. Or it may be that, like the Grinch, their hearts are two sizes too small.

But even confirmed lowercase people often enjoy a celebration. They might have to be prodded to help get ready for it, but once everybody’s assembled they’re perfectly capable of having a good time. The guy wearing the lampshade isn’t necessarily an Event person.

Lowercase celebrators can learn from the uppercase set: Something doesn’t have to be a major Event to profit from anticipation and planning. Few things that involve two or more people (and celebrations are by definition social) happen by themselves. A thing worth doing is worth doing well.

But uppercasers can also learn from lowercasers: Some of the best things in life can’t be planned. Organization can stifle creativity. In assembling trees, one can miss the forest.

The most memorable events often include the unexpected: The time the oven died just when you were going to put the turkey in and you had to call around and find someone who had room for an extra bird. The time the power went out and the party had to be conducted by candlelight.

Unless you live under a rock, it would be impossible to forget about Christmas. Indeed, the “Christmas season” seems to start earlier every year, leading cynics to wonder if we need a new holiday song titled “The Twelve Months of Christmas.”

Other celebratory occasions can be missed, however: the spouse who forgets an anniversary; the son or daughter who neglects to send mom a birthday card.

But there’s another category of missed opportunities to celebrate, and it’s one that could involve both Events people and events people. The world is charged with grandeur. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. But often the voice is not heard.

Uppercasers can miss the still small voice because it’s not loud enough; they hear only the capital E. Lowercasers might hear all the voices but come to think that none is more important than another.

Both groups need to remember that life presents many opportunities for celebration – that, in the words of local singer/songwriter Peter Mayer, everything is holy.