Finding balance in a chaotic world

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February 2018
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Lots of Christmas Presents

So one year, while I was single and in my mid-twenties, my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas. For some reason, I decided that what I wanted was a lot of presents. I didn’t care so much what they were but I wanted a lot and that was what I told them. As the boxes came in from across the country I realized that I had indeed received a lot of presents. Best Christmas ever, right? I would have thought so.


As I opened my “lots” of presents I felt impressed. My parents had gotten me lots of smaller presents but they all were decent presents. Nothing fantastic, but decent. And yet, at the end of it all I felt disappointment. I had essentially gotten exactly what I wanted, but it hadn’t made me happy. How can this be? Two factors: one, I didn’t know what I really wanted, and two, what I really wanted was ultimately unable to be satisfying for very long.


I often feel disappointed after opening presents at Christmas and I’m certain I’m not the only one.  I used to think that it was because I was greedy and just wanted more, but as I grew older I realized that instead it was the mystery I missed. For weeks there are wrapped mysteries under the tree. Once the box is unwrapped, the mystery is gone. I have a similar issue when watching Formula 1. If I accidentally find out who wins a race before I watch it, I tend to not bother watching the race. There could be the most intense and amazing racing ever, but knowing the mystery takes the fun away.


Every magic book says the same thing: “A good magician never reveals his secrets.” Basically you don’t tell people how a trick is done. I used to think it was this code of honor among magicians, that secret rites of passages had to be followed before the “inner sanctum” blessed you with the permission to know the secrets behind the greatest tricks. As I read more books about magic, I realized the truth. The information on how a trick is done is pretty easy to come across. So why the secrecy? What a good magician is protecting is not how his trick is done, but the audience’s sense of mystery. To be told how a trick is done takes away the fantasy that someone can truly cut a woman in half or levitate off a table. The cold hard facts on how the trick is done takes away that mystery.


So what does all this have to do with presents? Christmas is a time of mystery; wrapped presents, Santa, and, Jesus. Especially with children, it is important to maintain the mystery of Christmas as long as possible. Rather than tearing through present after present this Christmas morning, savor each one. Guess what it is before you open it and see if you are right, talk about some of the thoughts that might have gone through the mind of the person who bought the gift, explain how the gift works to someone who doesn’t understand. In short, savor the mysteries of Christmas.