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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Mike Bates
Bio: Mike Bates
Date:  December 24, 2007
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Topic category:  Other/General

Christmas contemplations

The Beatles were right when they sang money can't buy me love. I guess if they'd wanted to be more precise, they'd have crooned that money can't buy authentic love although in some instances it can acquire a reasonable facsimile of it, but that might have been tough to rhyme.

The Beatles were right when they sang money can't buy me love. I guess if they'd wanted to be more precise, they'd have crooned that money can't buy authentic love although in some instances it can acquire a reasonable facsimile of it, but that might have been tough to rhyme.

What money can buy are material possessions that may well bring some transitory pleasure. Far be it from me to disparage the enjoyment of such items. If someone wants to take away my high definition TV, they'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands. Not that I'm shallow or anything.

Still, it's quite clear that money and the things you can buy with it often don't bring lasting happiness. When a rich person kills himself, a typical question is why did he do it, he had everything he needed, everything to live for. Obviously, the deceased didn't view it that way.

We see that also with celebrities who either take their own lives or engage in behavior that ineluctably will lead to an earlier than normal demise. Few exhibit the apparent self-introspection of George Sanders, an Academy Award winning actor who overdosed on pills in 1972. His suicide note read: "Dear World. I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck."

Whether or not George's marriages to two, count 'em two, Gabor sisters or his treatment under seven, count 'em seven, psychiatrists contributed to his ultimate act of despair is unknown. What's clear is that fame and fortune hadn't given him adequate reason to want to carry on. He was bored with it all.

Then we read the sad tales of ordinary people who've suddenly attained great wealth, sometimes by winning a lottery. The gloomy part comes when they end up much more miserable than they were before their "good fortune."

Anticipating Christmas, a few days ago Pope Benedict XVI warned about children "deceived by unscrupulous adults who, lying to themselves and to them, draw them into the dead-end streets of consumerism." Sounds like His Holiness is aware of the commercials shown on television programs targeted for kids.

Personally, I don't have a problem with children dreaming about what they'll get for Christmas. Certainly there's a point where some youngsters may shift from hope to greed, but wishing for something special is as old as dirt and more often than not harmless.

Many years ago there was a kid who devoted an inordinate amount of time to dreaming about getting a couple of Mattel Shootin' Shell cap guns for Christmas. Getting them didn't draw him into the dead-end streets of consumerism, unless you count a current preoccupation with his high definition TV as evidence of that. Moreover, I wonder if the Pope's taken into account that "consumerism" and the attendant sale of Christmas merchandise create jobs for many people to earn a living, permitting them to provide for their families.

Christmas, regularly characterized as a season of joy, is a good time to consider the question: If money and things and fame don't bring continuing happiness, what does? There are probably as many answers to the inquiry as there are people on this earth.

Good health, true love, solid relationships with family members, inner peace, friends, satisfying work, the approval of those we respect, and a sense of some control over our situation us are a few.

Forgiveness and hope are two others. Forgiveness is an essential component of most major religions. All of us need forgiveness for hurting, or trespassing against, others. Some days it seems like life is just full of our own foolish misjudgments. Often, the most difficult part of the process is asking for forgiveness. When it's requested and granted, however, both the offender and the offended can get on with their lives.

Hope is also a fundamental element of most religions. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that hope "keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude." Hope helps us survive the harshest of life's realities. It gives us the strength to press on when logic suggest we shouldn't even try.

"For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting." To many, Christmas is a reminder of God's forgiveness of all our transgressions and a reason to hope for a life of eternal joy. God loves us so much that He became one of us.

Merry Christmas, dear reader.

Mike Bates

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Notes:  This Michael Bates column appeared in the December 20, 2007 Reporter Newspapers.

Biography - Mike Bates

Mike Bates wrote a weekly column of opinion - or nonsense, depending on your viewpoint - for over 20 years. Additionally, his articles have appeared in the Congressional Record, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Mensa Journal. He has been a guest on Milt Rosenberg's program on WGN Radio Chicago, the Bruce Elliott show on Baltimore's WBAL, the Jim Sumpter show on the USA Radio Network and the New Media Journal's Blog Radio. As a lad, Mike distributed Goldwater campaign literature and since then has steadily moved further to the Right. He is the author of "Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths." In 2007, he won an Illinois Press Association award for Original Column


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