Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas in a simpler time...

Through all the trials and tribulations of life, I think it's human nature to think of the past as a simpler time. Seeing the world through a child's eyes, right was right, wrong was wrong, and everything seemed to make more sense than it does through the jaded, cynical eyes of a grown up. And that past seems simpler the farther we are removed from it.

However when I think realistically back to when I was a child in the sixties, the world was anything but a simple place. I remember one particular year, 1968, when everything it seemed, started to unravel right before our eyes: a war with no resolution in sight, Russian tanks rolling through the streets of Prague, assassinations of two prominent national figures, and the subsequent riots that consumed cities across the country. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Yet as turbulent as those times were, I do believe our society was less fractured back then than it is today. Wonderful as the great strides in technology that have taken place in the past fifty years, the downside is we have so many venues to embrace the world through technology, we can now afford to cut off the information that is not pleasing to us. Everyone communicates, but no one talks to each other anymore.

Back in the sixties when information and entertainment outlets were a mere trifle compared to today, most everybody saw the same stuff. The phenomenal success of the Beatles for example was due to the fact that everybody in the US, (not just their natural fan base), saw them when they performed on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. Predictably, as the distribution of media outlets catering to more and more specific demographics and tastes has exploded since then, no one has come close to achieving the tremendous universal fame of the Fab Four.

Likewise, this beautiful little spot which aired on CBS for several years after it first aired in 1966 was seen by the vast majority of the country:


It is the creation of graphic designer R.O.Blechman whom you can read about here.

It's almost impossible to imagine something this simple and beautiful being broadcast to hundreds of millions of viewers today. Much of that is largely due to the genius of Mr. Blechman (who is still with us), whose team was able to convey in a minute's time, a very powerful message, actually many of them at once, all in simple line drawings and an equally simple and sublime soundtrack.

Of course our views of Christmas have changed in the subsequent years and while the tone of this short film is secular, the tune (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen), played by the woodsman on his saw is not.

I can just hear the network executives today after screening this film: "Oh that tune has religious overtones, can't we change it to say, Winter Wonderland?"

Not to belabor a point I made a few years ago, but I truly believe that Christmas is both a secular and a religious holiday, and that everybody should celebrate, or not celebrate it exactly as they see fit. Maybe if all those folks who worry about offending others actually talked to people who are not Christians or religious, they'd perhaps find out they really don't mind having someone wish them a Merry Christmas.

After all, the true spirit behind those words is wishing others peace, joy and love, and who could possibly be offended by that?

Merry Christmas!

No comments: