Two weeks ago, I began my annual Christmas music marathon — an attempt to listen to all the Christmas music in my library during the last two weeks before Christmas. One of the first things I …
Two weeks ago, I began my annual Christmas music marathon — an attempt to listen to all the Christmas music in my library during the last two weeks before Christmas. One of the first things I heard wasn’t a carol. Instead, it was a rich baritone voice conveying the best of wishes to me and mine.
This wasn’t the first time I had heard this voice and the greeting it delivered, but this time it seemed different. It was the same voice I heard last year, but this year, it seemed a little spooky. I’m not sure why I had that reaction to the greeting, but I suspect it’s because this Christmas season has been more troublesome than any other Christmas in my memory.
The difference stems from a microscopic piece of life that has, as I write this, killed over 300,000 Americans. It’s as though Genghis Kahn come back from the dead and sent his armies to annihilate a city the size of Pittsburgh.
To put it another way, COVID-19 has caused more American deaths in less than a year than our military suffered in three years of combat during World War II. There have been days when the number of deaths from this virus exceeded the death toll in the attack on Pearl Harbor or the D-Day invasion of France. I recently read that it’s killing approximately one American every minute.
Given those depressing statistics, listening to hours of music about peace on earth, goodwill toward men may well be the only thing keeping some people from sinking into dark despair. After all, such gloomy news is difficult to absorb without weighing down your spirit. The antidote might be joining in a couple of rousing verses of “Joy to the World,” a carol that can pick those gloomy spirits back to normal, if not above normal, in no time.
This unwelcome bit of reality has also meant keeping ourselves a safe distance from our friends, relatives and perfect strangers. Doing so lessens the chance that you will pass this virus to all your friends or receive it from any person who is carrying this virus. Unfortunately, we humans are social animals, and we do our best — and sometimes worst — when we are in groups, so isolation can cause all sorts of damage to our sense of well being.
That said, though, I’m not having much trouble with this isolation from my fellow man. It’s not that I don’t like people, but I do have a slight anti-social streak that I can turn off or on, depending on the circumstances. At this point, I have turned it off and, so far, I haven’t found a need to turn it back on. I have my wife and our cat if I find the need to talk to somebody, along with FaceTime visits from our two children and our grandchildren. Otherwise, books, recorded music, and video entertainment from the internet fill my days quite nicely, so being isolated most of the time isn’t a problem for me.
Fortunately, that baritone voice is available, buried in my music library, but easily accessible. It is the voice of a man who died in the mid-1960s, one of my favorite singers, Nat “King” Cole. Like many other singers, he had hosted a TV Christmas special and the greeting was lifted from that program.
I’ve heard that greeting every year since I acquired the recording two or three years ago, and for some reason, I found hearing a dead man wishing me well a bit spooky. Why, I don’t know, but I do have a theory.
This year has been a strange year. Not only have we been fighting a virus we can’t see without a microscope, but we are right in the middle of the strangest presidential election I have seen since I began voting. A great deal of dangerous rhetoric has been generated out of this situation, and it may generate violence before the issues are resolved.
The 1960s was also a time of protest, angry rhetoric and uncertainty about the futures. There was violence and vandalism, and uncertainty about the future which, while it wasn’t like what we are seeing today, it was just as troublesome as it is today.
The world may have been troubled, back in the ’60s, but out of those troubles came an exuberantly cheerful greeting that was full of hope for those who heard it. It might have been a little spooky to find a message from the past, but in the end, we survived those troubled times and were stronger for it.
I believe we can recover in 2021, just as we did more than six decades ago. I think we can make 2021 a good year, and in doing so, we will be stronger for it. It will take some effort, but I think our nation can make that effort.
I hope you have a good Christmas, and I wish you all health and happiness in 2021. And if Nat were still with us, he would wish you the same.