Don’t Stop Imagining

(Craig Campbell)– The other day I was considering Christmas Future with a friend. He told me that he would humor his family by celebrating as long as he lives with them, but that it’s not an occasion he will continue to observe in his adult life. He cited the stress of the holidays, the WASP-y façade of joy, and his lack of Christian faith. Even though I agree with all of those, I’d never consider skipping Christmas.

I’m not going to say that the holidays are special because they’re about togetherness, and family, and rejoicing, and tiny-tots-with-their-eyes-all-aglow. Sure they are, but that sentiment is captured in most non-Jesus non-Santa Christmas carols.

Christmas is about magic, and I’ll never outgrow the thrill of Christmas Day.

At school we had a few events and minimal decorations to mark the season, but the town of Amherst doesn’t even begin to compare to the holly, jolly, deck-the-halls phantasmagoria of the streets of a Midwest suburb. So after arriving home earlier this week, I’ve had to blitz to get in my share of holiday cheer before the beginning of this morning.

And what better way than music. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear. And so on my first day home, I spread out my entire collection of Christmas sheet music for piano and played all afternoon. I hadn’t seen any high school friends for four months, but this was more important. After I got bored with Christmas songs, I moved on to others that I had been practicing when I stopped taking lessons in high school.

I quit piano because it wasn’t compatible with my career advancement. I figured that the presidency of another club would look better on a college application than piano lessons. So I stopped playing. A few days ago I realized that the only occasion that I devote any serious amount of time to the instrument anymore is Christmas. I’ve voluntarily restricted an artistic outlet that I used to love to the month of December.

So now I’m at the kind of college I tried so hard in high school to get into. Now my extracurricular activities are closer to a picture of interests than a weighted sum of achievement. Résumé building is no longer about lengthening a list. Years from now will I think of my presidency of the Varsity Club as more valuable than the enduring ability to make music? Probably not.

Art is for the artist. It’s magic when we take single notes, or words, or colors, and uniquely arrange them into something that arouses emotion, thoughtfulness, or aesthetic pleasure. To be creative is to create, to hope, and to dream with childlike freedom. Creativity is so fundamental to our experience that to rob someone of it is to reduce his humanity. A long list of accomplishments means nothing if we can’t express how we feel about it.

I’ll observe the holidays for the rest of my life; regardless of my religious views, I’ll always revel in the wonder of the season. Whether it’s the miracle of the immaculate conception or the miracle of Santa fitting down your chimney, Christmas is about miracles. Hanukah is the miracle of burning candles. Winter Solstice is the miracle of the Longest Night. And we need to believe in miracles to get by, sometimes, which is why year after year we continue to celebrate.

Just like we never get too old or professional or successful to make art, in whatever medium, we never get too old to be absorbed by the magic of Christmas. To quote the my new favorite band, “don’t stop imagining, the day that you do is the day that you die.”