Bulletproof lists

Telluride Daily Planet, Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dear Santa (or write-in candidate), It’s possible you remember me from last year — although I’m not sure how much energy you reserve for adults (thick and unimaginative as we are). I said you were my favorite superhero, but then threw in fading plastic icon, Freud look-alike and some other regrettable things. Hopefully, you just rolled your eyes and reached for another piece of marzipan.

There was probably nothing memorable in that letter except maybe the mention of my dad’s choice of Christmas tree every year — a scrawny one he’d lovingly fluff up and drape with old-school, (lead-based) tinsel. And how I’d lie beneath that tree and put myself under a deliciously soporific marshmallow-y, cinnamon-y, pine-y yuletide hypnosis, lazily willing the world back to its true nature, which is holographic and charged through with electric currents of magic.

Well, anyway, now I’m pretty sure you saw the letter for what it obviously was: an address to the masses — or a small segment of them living in our valley. This letter is real. It’s really to you. I mean it. I’m only relegated to this format again because there are no other options for adults. Which is, in fact, what I’m really writing about.

I don’t have to point out how our children’s Santa letters have sunk to new lows, what with the viral extent of e-mailing and texting and the internet (www.textsanta.net, emailsanta.com, etc., and all the letter generators that require only marginal filling-in of the blanks.) Given a dearth of adult letter-writing role models, however, is there anyone to blame but we, ourselves and us? Kids have been trained to ask for trademarks, brand names, labels and logos. They are forgetting how to ask for things invisible to the eye. How to want them, even.

It occurs to me a yearly letter to Santa should be mandatory for every adult U.S. citizen. That’s my idea. That it be required by law and written by hand in order to receive one’s automobile registration. (I am well aware not everyone has a vehicle, and that some will object to the Santa letter for religious, empirical or semantic reasons — or all three. That’s why we initiate a reward-based voluntary program, suggesting other addressees or an option for write-ins). The point is: adults using ink to pen compulsory letters of desire.

I mean, when you think about it … Hilary Clinton writing a yearly letter to you? And Donald Trump? Jim at the post office? Maggie at the library? Patty at the chocolate shop? Toll booth operators, poets, housewives, lost men, horse trainers, rock stars, maître d’s, masons, soldiers, ballerinas, plumbers, people in prisons, patients in hospitals. Newlyweds and people with broken hearts. People who can’t get out of bed in the morning. Even people whose hearts are devoid of desire — even them. All telling you what they want, or what they would want if they could want. All checking in annually with whatever part of the self it is that fashions wants and desires out of raw materials. Would that be the heart? The heart of hearts?

I’m sure you remember “A Miracle on 34th Street,” in which your true identity is eventually proven real in court when 50,000 letters addressed only to Santa Claus, US Post Office are dumped in front of the judge. Every day, we fashion the world anew from our collective belief in what it is, what it was the day before, and what we think it will be. What if we gave ourselves a lifelong project of writing letters, of remaking the world based on our pared-down, barefoot, daisy-holding wants? What if we inadvertently remade Earth into something that throbbed better, breathed better, gave and received better?

Last year, I said I thought children and their belief in belief were holding up the world and you were holding up the children. Well, I’ve changed my mind. Grown-ups need to grow down and participate in this act of conjuring. We need to make our lists, and then check in with how careful — or slovenly or greedy or wasteful — we are. Then we need to prune the wish tree until we have even the smallest Whoville inkling that the fruits borne will be sweet, and satisfying and right.

So here’s the start of my letter to you (the real one), which should actually be private and penned in ink and on decent paper except that I’m trying to make a point here to the people of my valley (and earn my automobile registration for 2011).

Dear Santa: Please don’t let me run out of good candles this year since burning them is cathartic, smells good, and the blue flames speak to me. And if you can figure out how, give me the courage (every day) to use my arms a lot more on the balance beam of life….

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