Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Artist: Bramantino

Do you know the works of Willa Cather? The following is from a newspaper column she produced toward the beginning of her writing career. I can't determine exactly when this was written but it had to have been quite early in the 20th century. Somehow these paragraphs seem wonderfully apppropriate for tonight:

Up in the Negro church one Christmas the congregation were singing the "Peace on Earth." When the plaintive music stopped an old gray-haired Negro in a frock coat and wearing two pairs of glasses arose and began reading the old, old story of the men who were watching their flocks by night and of the babe who was born in the city of David. He became very excited as he read, and his voice trembled and he unconsciously put the words to measure and chanted them slowly. When he finished he looked up at the ceiling with eager misty eyes as though he could see the light of the heavenly messenger shining in upon him.

It is a beautiful story, this of the holiest and purest childhood on earth, beautiful even to those who cannot understand it, as dreams are sweet to men without hope. After all, if we cannot hear the carol and see the heavenly messenger, it is because our ears are deaf and our eyes are blind, not that we turn willfully away from love or beauty.

No one is antagonistic by preference. Almost any of us who doubt would give the little we know or hope to know to go down upon our knees among the lowly and experience a great faith or a great conviction.


  1. No one is antagonistic by preference.

    What a very interesting observation. I think true.

  2. It would be nice if it were true. It's certainly the way I would like the world to be. But, sadly, some people are antagonistic by preference. To say otherwise is like denying that evil is real. I don't like it, and I wish it weren't true. People are or choose to be antagonistic for a plethora of reasons. My own view is that, though some reasons are more defensible than others, evil is somewhere at the root of them all. Defensiveness, for example, is more defensible as a reason for antagonism than is greed. But one becomes defensive because one fears that others will pounce if weakness is discerned. And the fear that others will pounce is rooted in an awareness, though it may be unconscious, of evil.

  3. Actually, after reading the post again, I'm not quite sure why the phrase, "no one is antagonistic by preference," was included in this story. It seems defensive of a phantom thought in the mind of the author that has not been shared with the reader. Perhaps that thought might be the realization that there are people, like a certain person who posts on this site as anonymous, who would read the story here and respond to the story of the "old gray-haired Negro," and the awe he expressed, with cynicism and antagonism. But, not having described such a person in the story itself, the phrase seems to me rather out of place.

  4. Well, maybe she means the preference we had before we were soured by life in some way -- the preference of our real, true-nature-self, not the hardened ego that is always out for its own benefit.

    Just a thought.


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