Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Claus is a good metaphor

A recent blog post on Dale McGowan's Parenting Beyond Belief (highly recommended) talks about kids' belief in Santa Claus as a dry run for their belief in Jesus. The experience of realizing that Santa Claus doesn't literally exist has many parallels to the experience of realizing that God and/or religion also aren't all they're cracked up to be. In fact, I'm having a hard time thinking of a way in which they're significantly different.

- Everything seems to work by faith and magic despite logic and evidence.
- Parents teach their children and hope they continue to believe as long as possible.
- If you're good, you get good gifts. If you're bad, you don't.
- He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake.
- Jesus will return to earth, and Santa Claus is coming to town.
- We all gather regularly to sing songs in praise of both.

I guess the extremity and duration of the "eternal" good gifts and bad gifts might count as a difference. But the main significant difference seems to be that a whole lot of adults continue to believe in Jesus. Here's where I insert a link to another very enjoyable blog post I read a few years ago: What It Feels Like to Be an Atheist. I think about this article all the time, because I think Santa Claus is nearly a perfect metaphor.

So tonight, Christmas Eve, I got my kids hyped up for Santa Claus to come. We tracked him on the NORAD Santa Tracker. We talked about what presents Santa might bring, and whether they've been good kids this year. We put out cookies and carrots in anticipation of his arrival. My seven-year old daughter wrote him a beautiful note, which I will probably keep forever.

But Santa won't read the note. Santa won't eat the cookies. We will have to eat the cookies ourselves, and sprinkle a few crumbs on the counter as "evidence" of Santa's visit. We will act surprised when we discover what presents Santa brought. We will speculate about how he gets in and out of the house, how he can know when everyone is asleep, and what exactly you have to do to avoid getting a lump of coal. We will do this every year, until eventually the children will figure out that Santa Claus is not really coming to our house. In fact, despite our innocent hopes and dreams, he was never there at all.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Profound conversation with my 4-year old son

The following is a conversation I had last night as I was tucking my 4-year old son, Alex, into bed. Autumn is his 7-year old sister.

Alex: I have a cramp, and I think my toe bone is almost broken.

Me: Oh no, we'll have to check it tomorrow and see if it's okay.

Alex: How can we even do that?

Me: We'll just see if it still hurts in the morning.

Alex: I think I'll know if it's broken even since I'm four years old. I don't want to have a broken bone, and I don't want to die either.

Me: You don't want to die?

Alex: Yeah, but I think everyone has to die.

Me: Well, that's true, but I hope you don't die for a long, long time. I think you'll live a long life and be very happy.

Alex: Autumn said everyone has to die sometime or somehow.

Me: But you know what? No matter what happens, I will always love you, forever. And Mommy will too.

Alex: I will always love you, too. And Mommy, and Autumn. And I love Netflix.

Me: They have good stuff to watch, don't they?

Alex: Yeah, like Sponge Bob.

Me: Good night, I love you.

Looking for critical feedback of my latest novel

NaNoWriMo Winner 2009Well, November is over, and that means NaNoWriMo 2009 is done. On November 30 at about midnight, I finished the first draft of my latest novel, which is a little under 60,000 words. That would be maybe 200-ish pages in paperback? I'm looking for critical feedback, so if you're interested in ripping into my novel and telling me what's wrong with it, please let me know! You'll need to send me your email address so I can invite you to the private blog, where you can leave your comments. You can send me an email at mthelen *AT* (gmail dot com).

I'm actually pretty happy with how the story turned out, for a first draft. Several people who have read it or are reading it have had good things to say, which I find encouraging. At the same time, it does need a lot of work. I'm going to let the draft sit until March before I try to revise it at all. At that point, the story will be less fresh in my mind and I should be able to approach it more objectively than I could today. I will also be taking everyone's criticism very seriously as I revise it. I'm interested in all manner of ideas, from typo corrections all the way up to complete plot overhauls. Everything is subject to change, but I want all the changes to make the story better.

NaNoWriMo is always a blast. My wife and I did it together again this year, and we both won. Last year, I wrote 50,000 words, but the story was about half-finished when I quit. Can you guess whether I ever finished it? I wrote another 5,000 words about 10 months later, but that's it. I was determined not to do that again this year. Regardless of anything else, I wanted to finish the story, and I did. It feels great to set a goal and accomplish it.