A Christmas fable

Once, in the land then known as the United States of America in the year 2008, there was a crisis of communication. Not too many years earlier, most communication had taken place via handwritten “letters,” by “telephone” or in person.

However, too-rapid access to new technologies paralyzed most people with an avalanche of communications choices. There were computers, the Internet, e-mail, text messaging, wall-posts, Twitter, iPhones, BlackBerries, webcams and, the preferred choice of many Southerners seeking traffic advantages, communicative gun blasts to the face.

Instead of improving intercourse, these myriad choices made communication nonsensical. People said things like “tsup?” and “[email protected]” and “wot r u a retard?” Society became paralyzed. Soon, the people fell into “the economic recession of 2008” everywhere except the land of Kentucky, which is always 25 years behind everyone else. (Unfortunately, there had been a recession 25 years earlier, too, so even Kentucky was depressed.)

But late in the year, something magical happened. People began writing and texting and e-mailing each other with clearly composed messages of joy and peace and brotherhood and love. Something had broken through the gridlock and allowed messages of loving kindness to spread throughout the land.

Had the landscape become saturated with a particularly powerful strain of Micronesian weed? No, it had not. Was there an early release of a highly alcoholic batch of seasonal Hopslam from the Bell’s Brewing Company of Kalamazoo, Mich.? No, there was not. Was there an accidental dispersal of synthetic opiates into the nation’s water supply? No.

It was simply Christmas, a magical holiday celebrating two of that land’s many deities. One was Jesus Christ, the god of peace on earth and goodwill toward all. The other was Santa Claus, the god of plastic consumer goods. Both had the capacity to bring smiles to children’s faces, to fill hearts with hope and joy, and to make even the deepest cynic think kind thoughts about her fellow human beings in perfectly cogent prose.

According to legend, what happened is this: On Christmas Eve, a lonely young man sitting in a dimly lit dive picked up an alternative newspaper and read a Christmas fable proclaiming that anything could happen on Christmas, if only he called upon the love in his own heart. (This was back when there were still newspapers and alternatives to them.) The fable challenged readers to send a message of kindness to someone they’d overlooked at Christmas.

Digging deep, the young man thought of a guy in his office who was sort of a dick. He reached for his 3G BlackBerry Storm, but its touchscreen kept displaying an F whenever he typed G. So he gave up and found a cocktail napkin and a pen and he wrote these words: “Dear Larry, Even though you are a major douche, I have to admit you did a nice job on the Bannister account this year. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and that all your dreams come true in 2009.”

Looking back over it, he decided the first part was untrue to the spirit of Christmas, so he carefully tore out the first 11 words, drove to Larry’s house, and slid the napkin under the door. When Larry read the message, he was so touched that he carefully composed notes to five people he knew, complimenting them on some manner of their deportment, talent or productivity. And his compliments weren’t sideways compliments, either. No “The silence is exquisite when you stop talking” or “For a fat girl, you don’t sweat much.” They were real compliments, because Larry’s heart was full of love. At the end of each note he wrote, “Pass it on.”

And those five people each wrote five people who wrote five people and before you knew it, people began texting and tweeting and e-mailing and IM-ing and wall posting, and some geezers even sent actual letters written in actual handwriting that they mailed in actual envelopes and the messages said beautiful things like “I think you’re cool,” “You are wonderful” and “I promise not to laugh next time somebody throws shoes at you, Mr. President.”

And there was peace and joy and clear communication throughout the land. For a couple of days. Until the decline of the American empire got back on track. But thanks to the magic of the season, everyone had a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.