Santa’s Farewell; Sign of the Times
(In the mid-90s I wrote a one-man play, At Home in the Universe, on the historical interaction of technology and spirituality over the millennia, as told by seven men (some historical [Galileo, Averroes], others fictitious). Santa is the last story-teller. His voice is like the old cowboy Gabby Hayes)
Did I hear somebody call my name? Ho, ho, ho, it’s your old friend Santy Claus. I was sure I heard my name. Oh, it’s so nice to see all my boys and girls again.
Why, look, there’s Bobby. When Bobby was a little boy, he used to like to build things with his hands. And he used to ask me to bring him City Blocks, and Erector Sets and Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys. Now Bobby’s an electronic engineer, and never touches nothing but a mousy pad.
And there’s Suzy. When Suzy was little, she used to collect dolls and tea sets and frilly things. Now she’s a construction foreman. Oh, golly. The world’s turned upside down.
It surely has. You know, I’ve been thinking lately… I got a lot of time to think these days…. I’ve been thinking how we’ve had a complex history together, haven’t we?
When you was young’uns you thought I was a real, old man. You knew I had a long white beard, and a bright red coat, and a big black belt, and said Ho, Ho, Ho.
Then when you turned eight or nine or so, you stopped believing in me. And it used to make old Santy feel so sad. I’d be sitting there in the department story with your little brother or sister in my lap, and you’d be hanging back in the toy department and look at me and you’d scowl and say, ‘Bah, humbug.’
But life goes on and you kept on growing. Eventually you had children of your own. And it used to make old Santy feel so good, as I’d look in your window at midnight and see you sitting there, putting together the toys for your kids. Why, you’d become Santa. You’d internalized me.
And only then, only then, would you come to understand the true meaning of the words… ‘Batteries not included.’ Old Santy never forgot the batteries, did he? No siree.
Did you ever notice how your individual history with me is like your collective history with God? We’re a lot alike… the old candy man in the sky, and the old gift-bringer from the North Pole.
There was a time when people believed God was a real, old man, with a long white beard, and a long white robe, sitting on a marble throne.
Then one day old Galileo turned his telescope to the sky and said, ‘Uh, I don’t see no marble throne.’ So immediately you said, ‘Well then, there ain’t no God.’ You went right from your mythic phase to your materialist phase. And now, boys and girls, it’s time you enter your mature phase. Before time runs out. You need to internalize God, same as you internalized me when you growed up.
You wanted cool toys and I brung em to you over the last fifty years. Now with the atom smasher, you can manipulate matter at the atomic level. With gene machines, you manipulate life at the molecular level. With digital computers you manipulate information at the bit level. And with psychoactive drugs you can manipulate mood at the synaptic level. You aim to create life and mind, and do that in a value-free context. Wooo-weee! Don’t make me laugh. I don’t have the bladder control I used to.
Well, good luck. I won’t be here to see what you do with it. I’m gone. I’ve come to say farewell. I’m headin’ off to that little cabin at the South Pole… while there’s still some ice left.
Truth is, I’ve been forced into retirement… re-engineered out of a job. What happened was, about 40 years ago kids stopped wanting toys made of wood and plastic, where they had to imagine things. They wanted electronic toys to entertain them. Well, that meant I had to re-tool the production line. Had to borrow money. Had to leverage the business. Ever heard that term?
Now my partners, Santco Enterprises, a global operation, have engineered my ouster. They say I was too selfish only coming once a year. Imagine, old Santy being selfish!
They said people should think every day is Christmas. Their motto is, “Infinite consumption of finite resources.” I said, ‘That won’t work in the long run.’ They said, ‘Damn the long run.’ I said, ‘You can’t say damn the long run where kids is concerned.’ They said, ‘Then damn the kids.’ Damn the kids? Do you believe that? I don’t know what’s going on no more.
Oh, they also said I had no business mixing morality with my merchandising. Remember when I used to ask if you’d been naughty or nice. Can’t ask that no more. Unconstitutional. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Brats got rights, too. Rights, smights! Doesn’t anybody have any responsibility anymore?
Now you’ll notice every Christmas, the bags for the rich kids get bigger, and the bags for the poor kids get smaller. Too few got too much. Too many got too little.
What happened to you? You used to have a crackerjack public library system, public school system, public health system, public works system. Now it’s all gone. Just gone. Instead, you got your personal trainer, your personal identification number, your personal computer and personal digital assistant. And Jesus is your personal savior.
You gotta stop thinking so much about me and start thinking again about we. See? Gee, this ain’t rocket science.
Now I’m gonna tell you a little secret. I never told you before. You always knew I went around the world one night a year on Christmas Eve. But you never knew I went around a second time. Yea, that’s right. Every Christmas night I’d come back round again and look in all the windows of the world to see what the kids was doing with their new toys.
And in some windows, I’d see boys and girls sharing nicely, and it made ol Santy feel real good. But in other windows I’d see boys and girls that was stingy and selfish, and it made me feel so bad.
You know, tools is just toys for grownups. They ain’t here for gimmee and for gotcha. They’re here for teaching and healing and building and sharing. Tools enable you. ‘Sup to you to ennoble yourself or endanger yourself with ’em. You gotta start thinking about that. For the long run.
You ain’t kids no more. The old candy man in the sky… the old gift bringer from the North Pole… we hope we served you well when you was kids. But now the sky’s got a hole in it and the North Pole’s turned to slush. And that ain’t our doin. You’re all growed up now. Act like it!
You want to show your appreciation for our years of faithful service to ya? Then with your minds and hearts, pray for peace. With your tools and new technologies, work for justice.
Bye-bye boys and girls. All you lovely children all round the world, and your children and their children. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen.… (whispers; a kiss) good-bye. (Walks off) Ho-ho-ho…
© 2021, Thomas Mahon
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