A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Monday, December 24, 2007

Et Incarnatus Est

I guess if I had to call myself anything, which I don't, it would be "Christian." Mainly because I was raised in a home that was rather unenthusiastically Methodist. (I really think of myself as a "secular progressive," because whatever Bill O'Reilly is, I don't want to be.)

Christmas has become an exhausting holiday, though. Everyone works so hard to make it merry, and you can see the effort. But it's the only Christian holiday that still holds meaning for me. Easter? No. Because I can't bring myself to believe in the Resurrection. Sentimentally, perhaps, I would like to believe in something after this life, but it all seems so implausible -- and even a little unnecessary. What would heaven be for, anyway?

But Christmas is the holiday that recognizes the one Christian mystery that I can still put some belief behind: the Incarnation. The idea that God, whoever or whatever that is, could become, for whatever reason, a human being. Where I part with the Christians is in holding that Jesus is the only incarnation. I think maybe he had a lot more of God in him than most of us do, sure. But there are surely a lot of other people who have manifested the divine. Moses and the Buddha and Lao-Tse and Muhammad; Socrates, Plato and Aristotle; Homer and Aeschylus and Sophocles and Sappho; Dante and Chaucer and Hildegarde of Bingen and Teresa of Avila; Shakespeare and Cervantes and Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe; Bach (for sure), Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven; Goethe and Keats and Shelley; Dickens, George Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf; James Joyce and Samuel Beckett; Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and the Marxes (including Karl); Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin; Voltaire and Moliere; Descartes and Kant and Nietzsche; Dryden, Pope, Swift; Leonardo and Michelangelo and Vermeer and Daumier and Picasso and Hogarth and Tenniel; Walt Kelly and Charles Schulz and Bill Watterson; Preston Sturges and Howard Hawks; Garbo and Dietrich, the two Hepburns, Stanwyck, Marilyn and Elvis; Fred Astaire and Bruce Springsteen and Willie Nelson and ....

Merry Christmas to them all, and to you and your favorite incarnations.