Santa Claus isn’t real. “Everybody knows that.” I dissolved my belief in Santa Claus many years ago, but there was a time in my life when I had to confront that belief and confirm it is false.

I was nearly twelve years old. Seems a bit late, and I remember wanting to call bullshit on my parents’s parenting strategies. I don’t know why they waited until I was nearly a teenager to bring me through this rite of passage and expose the malware, but I remember Mom couldn’t say the words. She led me into the conversation only to quickly excuse herself, and asked me not to tell my younger brother [the truth]. The ritual continued, and the abundance of gifts remained.

The truth…

The truth is that my parents did a lot to provide for their children, despite whatever was going on in their lives. They gave us a lot, and wanted us to have everything. Each year they bought a bunch of stuff and things—toys, clothes, snowboards, hamsters—wrapped them all meticulously in between the gymnastics meets and sibling fights and homework checks, then coordinated the big pile up under the tree for a flawless Christmas morning presentation.

But as children we adopted the belief that every year a strange old man breaks into our home, defying Newtonian physics to present us a range of material goods that could only be selected with extensive insight into our young developing minds. “Santa’s always watching,” we were told, and that became a voice to model our behavior throughout the year. We were to act in accordance if we wanted to receive the stuff and things (which could easily be forgotten and replaced the following year, as long as we made “the nice list” again).

It didn’t bother me when the truth became clear, in sixth grade, perhaps because I was sufficiently ready to shed the false belief. I felt like I had known for some time, but was still playing the game because the payoff was very satisfying. What if I could have directed all my excitement and gratitude towards my parents, instead of the silly little story?

I suppose if Mom had executed her guru function a few years earlier, and led me to the truth while I was still infatuated by the false belief and its payoff, I might have had more of a reaction. I might have been upset. Mom why would you ruin that for me!? This whole time, all these gifts were from YOU!? Perhaps I would have wanted to cling to the story of the strange old man who sneaks around at night and knows the type of underwear I like.

At 31 I continue to examine false beliefs, though I run some additional programs to execute the function. The malware is persistent, and every time it reappears in the code I just want to X out of the terminal. The stories are absurd like the Santa Claus illusion—albeit a little more personalized—and I cling to them, unwilling to acknowledge where the gifts really came from.

My ego, the one who suffers, must want the stories to be true. If they are true, then my suffering is justified. I have earned my suffering, the same way my belief in Santa Claus earned the gifts. Instead of creating a pile of toys underneath the tree, I can pile up my limiting beliefs and create a false story of epic proportion. I can spend my entire life painting pictures, making cards, and concealing all my gifts, and maybe some day the whole world will believe what my ego says is true.

Or I can open a new window, and call upon the function again.

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