Yes, Virginia, there is an InternetWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
For as many years as I’ve heard it referenced, I never fully absorbed Francis Church’s “Yes, Virginia” editorial until recently. To me, it was just an accepted piece of the annual Christmas patchwork and didn’t seem to demand an understanding beyond such. As pop culture has begun to re-introduce it in a more thorough manner, however, I realize how true it continues to ring and how important it is to continue to embrace its sentiment.
“Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.”
While it has an ongoing reputation as a time of hope and faith, the holiday season is also capable of producing heavy bouts of cynicism, occasionally bringing out the doubting Virginia in each of us. The responsibilities of adulthood, mixed with rampant commercialism and a league of non-believers determined to outwit anyone with a hint of belief left, sometimes make keeping the faith, in anything, difficult to say the least. Throw in various groups of very particular believers determined to convince us that we’re doing it wrong, no matter how we celebrate, and the light of the season can begin to cast a dark, confusing shadow.
“In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.”
The age of information, education and digital manipulation have understandably thrust us further and further into a place of skepticism about every little thing, even that which we can see with our own two eyes. Still, as once-futuristic dreams now become reality on a daily basis, we somehow continue to deny that there are possibilities yet to be realized. As far as we have come in recognizing the nearly unfathomable vastness of the universe, we continue to believe that we are within arm’s reach of understanding it fully, if we haven’t already. Yet, Church’s contention that, “Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world” is as true today as it was upon his writing it in 1897.
“Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”
As we delve ever deeper into the electronic era, it should become more and more obvious how important something can be in our world even when we cannot see it in a complete and physical way. In fact, we are now immersed in a sea of life-affirming, yet intangible online knowledge and personal connection that neither children nor men can see. When it comes to music and the Internet and the sprit of Christmas, it is the experience itself that is more real than anything else.
“Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.”
As far as so many of us have come in fulfilling our basic needs, we somehow continue to struggle “to make tolerable this existence.” We struggle to accept that that which brought us hope, happiness and understanding as children should continue to offer us these things into our later years. We struggle to embrace the faith and the poetry and the romance of the season, and of all seasons, opting instead for the most literal of life’s interpretations.
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to our life its highest beauty and joy.”
In bowing to the skepticism of our own skeptical age, we spend much of our time nitpicking at the details, the semantics and the nuances of it all while missing the larger than life ideas that make it all worthwhile. The spirit of Santa Claus exists throughout humanity in different forms and under different aliases. As much as some may try to manipulate, corral or stamp it out, removing completely the idea behind it is as attainable as doing away with love, generosity and devotion. The idea would simply return at another time and in another form, just as it likely always has and just as it likely always will.
Columnist Shannon Szyperski and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.