The following is a Christmas letter I sent to my extended family and friends (and enemies). I thought you might enjoy reading it.
December 17, 2017
Dear Family, friends, enemies, readers of Clear News, and people who don’t love me anymore,
Here we are; another year, and another opportunity to waste a little of your time. By the way, what page are you on? (Those of you who were lucky enough to get a copy of Foundations.) Don’t tell me. I find it disheartening. I find fewer and fewer people are interested in my wisdom.
When I was a young man and had visions of being very successful in my life. I was also confused. I used to hope that I could someday be a wise older man and give advice to young, confused people. I, myself, never found an older, successful guy to be my mentor, and I wanted to be one of those mentors myself. (Sorry, ladies, I guess I was looking for male leadership. But, no matter, no woman ever offered to be my mentor.)
But now I’m an older man I find that younger people couldn’t care two beans about my experience or my ideas on how to interpret reality.
But wait…….is this supposed to be a Christmas letter or what?? Get to the point!
OK, “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukah,” and all the rest. I and my whole family have been as happy and successful as pigs in mud. We’re living a much more exciting and meaningful life than any of you. I, myself, have just had one success after another and every day I wake up full of joy.
Now back to my thoughts.
I’ve been trying to read G.K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy) and been listening to “The Journey Home” on the ESPN Catholic channel. What they all have seem to be saying is that the old truths are more valid than the new, modern truths. In other words, do trust people over 30, and in fact, trust a lot of dead people. The democracy of the dead.
Take the birthday boy, for instance. I’ve been going to Temple a couple of times a month, and have been reading and listening to a lot of pundits on all the new systems of morality and enlightenment. But nothing seems as true as the New Testament.
A childhood friend of mine and I went to Israel on a spiritual tour. The leaders said we would never read the New Testament the same after this trip, and they were right. I now appreciate the historical reality of this young man being born of a young Jewish woman, becoming a spiritual revolutionary, and then dying at an age less than half mine. And he’s still a revolutionary!
I sailed on the same sea that he did, walked the same roads, stood on the same hills, and looked at the same sky.
I recently had a debate with a mature philosopher, an atheist, and a thoroughly wonderful person. It was at Quest, a school I attend for retired professionals. The questions we debated were 1) Does a personal God exist?; 2) Are prayers effective? And 3) Is there an afterlife?
In his wisdom, my debater insisted that instead of trying to beat up each other with cleaver arguments, we meet three times before the debate and reveal our arguments to each other, refine them, and then present them to the audience.
What I found – as many of you may have predicted – that no one changed their minds an iota. But, more intriguingly, I found that most of the audience didn’t seem very interested in the questions?! It seemed, for them, it was just sort of an interesting and entertaining intellectual exercise. It was an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half.
Hey, but we’re talking about eternity here. No one is interested in eternity? Maybe there isn’t an afterlife, but isn’t the question is still important? As the clock clicks down, what is more important?
My main argument – which no one bought – was that Jesus’ interpretation of reality was a better bet (Pascal’s wager). Perhaps one of the top atheists of all time is Ricgard Dawkins (The God Delusion) – since he has all the up-to-date arguments and is an award-winning biology professor at Oxford University. He says that, from a scientific view, there is a 90% chance that Jesus’ worldview of an afterlife is not true.
I can buy that. A 10% chance of eternal life is a good enough for me. So, like Bob Dylan, I’ll try to get to heaven before they close the door. Perhaps his Nobel Prize will pry his door a little open. But I’m counting on my annual Christmas letter allowing me to squeeze in.
Speaking of Dylan (and I know I’m rambling, and if I’m boring you, just put down this letter and don’t listen to me – nobody else does), one of our Christmas letter recipients, and I recently went to a Dylan Concert. It was great. Of course, Dylan had poor enunciation, but we watched this 75-year-old man up there, still singing from his repertoire of 50 years of transcendent, Nobel Prize-winning poetry. He even sang Blowin in the Wind. As Dylan said in Buckets of Rain (which I sang to my extended family – lucky devils – at Thanksgiving):
Life is sad, life is a bust
All you can do, is do what you must
Do what you must do and do it well
I’ll do it for you, honey babe, can’t you tell
That thief, Dylan, he stole Jean-Paul de Cassaude’s idea:
The secret of life is to do
The duty of the present moment
And do it well
Anyhow, that’s the culmination of my wisdom, gleaned from over 50 years of dysfunctional existence – and it isn’t even mine!
But getting back to eternity, I wasn’t persuaded in Steve’s – or the audience’s – arguments either. I just care about eternal life. Basically, I’m an agnostic. I feel confident that I don’t know what is real and what is not, and I believe that there is no certainty in life.
So, Jesus is offering me eternal life, Steve is offering me a grave, and the Hindus and Buddhists are offering me reincarnation (and if I succeed in a few reincarnations, I get nothingness). Agnostics are offering me a form of intellectual integrity (and who cares if I have intellectual integrity?) and an open mind. If I accept agnosticism, my last words in life could be: “Reality might be this or it may be that. And what do you think?”)
Let’s see, what shall I choose?…………let me think……hmmmm………oh, what the hell, I’ll choose eternal life. If I’m wrong who cares? I will never know. Nor will anyone else. But if I am right, I’ll learn how to fly.
I’m still giving out communion and praying with Catholic patients who are in Bellevue Hospital. For those who choose to receive, I hold the host in front of them and say, “Jesus said ‘I am the bread of life; whoever eats this bread will live for eternity.’”
Hey, don’t yell at me, I’m just saying what they said he said. It’s either true or the biggest hoax ever played on humanity.
My wife and I have been doing some hard travelling. We’re going all over the place: Park City (Utah), Edinburgh, Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Santa Fe, and Florida.
My wife is more excited about these trips than I am. She researches the places to tour in each city, puts pictures on Facebooks, buys souvenirs, and tells all her friends about our exciting experiences. But me, I just go to all these places and I find myself there. Wherever I go, it’s still me. I haven’t been able to figure out the difference between me in New York and me in New Mexico.
My daughter has returned from a Yoga school in India and a re-forestation project both in India and Haiti, spending eight months as a project director in Haiti. She said that she rarely experienced a comfortable moment in Haiti. There was unpleasant heat, sandflies, mosquitos, poverty, and angry, skeptical people. I wasn’t aware how spoiled we all are.
One of our guests slept in my daughter’s bed. She said it was the most comfortable bed she ever slept in. Thus, my daughter went from sleeping in a hammock, in a hut with no walls, for eight months, and then into a princess’s bed.
She is now at the same crossroads that we are all at: what shall we do with our lives? And I thought I would someday get off the crossroads! She’s trying to decide what her next move will be. Teaching Yoga — which she loves and is talented in — doesn’t pay the rent. So she’s applying to Social Work school.
I’m trying to give her advice on how to increase her probability of finding romantic love in her life, but she isn’t listening.
Me? I’ve been busy solving all the world’s problems in by website — Clearnewsbyrgmartin.com. I don’t like doing it, but I’m doing it for you, so you can concentrate of other things, like how to be happy.
We’re being bombarded with tens of classical Christmas songs, which come along every year like a hurricane. They are all trying to get us into the Christmas and Hanukah spirit. Perhaps this Christmas letter can be one of these songs. So you have a great Christmas and Hanukkah! I just can’t wait till next year to write you another letter.