No Santa, no manger and no alcohol: just the spirit of Christmas in eight-eight keys

Eighty-eight keys to happiness

The spirit of Christmas is alive among Daoists, Buddhists and heathens in this part of the world.

Last Saturday we all went to my son’s piano teacher’s Christmas concert in a neighbour’s living room. The eight-eight keys of an unassuming upright piano were hammered or tickled by kids of various ages and abilities stumbling through carols that they had never heard until six weeks ago and which had no spiritual or cultural relevance to them, other than as a collection of notes on a stave that had to be delivered accurately on the black and whites. There was not an angel, a manger, a turkey, alcohol, or a magus in sight and the presents were modest and symbolic in a way that paid tribute to the occasion more than any grandiose gesture could and it felt more like the Christmas of my childhood than anything that I’ve experienced since reaching adulthood.

I’ve been letting this society get to me recently. For seven months, I had all but given up going out because I’ve reached the stage where just looking at the rudeness and aggression that is paraded on a daily basis makes my blood boil. For a few months when things were really bad, I stopped going out altogether. However, last Saturday I finally realised that the people whom we elevate to social positions that are worthy of our attention are not representative of the society in which we live, just as Christmas is no longer defined by the story of an infant in a manger for more than a few of us.

Our societies are contracting around us as the spaces in between those whom we admire for their courage, kindness and patience expand to accommodate the seemingly endless supply of aggression and bad manners. Long may we preserve the bubbles of decency and kindness and banish the circling, vulgar vultures whom we cannot ignore to rightful obscurity.

A small group of decent, ordinary Taiwanese people has shown me that common decency and a good time are still possible. The secret to sustainable happiness seems to be narrow your horizons occasionally. Kindness is everywhere. Seeing it is just a matter of developing selective myopia. I wear glasses to correct being long-sighted. My New Year’s resolution is to get a stronger prescription.


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