49. Yule-tide tremors (11/2011)
‘Tis the jolly season of kitsch and cliché from fake snow and tinsel to blow by blow accounts of family delights and discord. We find greed and altruism juxtaposed at grassroots generosity, puppies and kittens given as presents for pleasure, dogs and cats abandoned for pleasure; pleasure seekers, makers, givers, and takers upsetting the applecart before the horse while barking up the wrong tree of righteousness.
Some expressions involving animals highlight aspects of gifting under an eagle eye leaving scope for playful dissection if not pulling the wool over your thighs at least giving a bird’s eye skew on things in the somewhat ambiguous seasonal spirit of giving as good as it gets, fake it or weave it into the story you choose to believe. The spotlight falls on what we’ve been waiting for, in all its imagined glory and a flaw that stretches the limits of etiquette. Too much gratitude equates to the lady protesting too much methinks. Rather don’t look that gift horse in the mouth (unless it’s baring its teeth!). Where lies the deceit, gold dust at my feet, and you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Why search afar when the best is so near? ‘Local is lekker’ now ‘imported’ gets the sneer.
While pearls before swine seem hard to decline, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. In retrospect holding back is a family affair as restraint is safer than truth or dare. But nevertheless junk is junk, and will continue to be recycled because real worth is rare as hens’ teeth and a white elephant will remain a myth to be solved by taking its rightful place in the world.
The bearing of the cat that got the cream becomes elevated with livelier and more challenging fare. Her hunted trophy becomes a proud offering and sacrifice: ‘This is what I bring. It has great value for me. And I just know that you’re going to plats for the carcass on your pillow slip!’ If we didn’t try to understand how much it meant to this giver then the gesture would be meaningless, if not annoying. But getting to know the feline species, perhaps experiments in tolerance are his game that also includes clawing, yelling in the night, allergic reactions, playing hard to get, scented effects, hiding when called, very early rising, and fake purr.
One of the keys to happiness is identifying a need in somebody else which helps to hone compassion, awareness, powers of perception, and understanding. Giving a dog a (raw) bone aptly matches great desire with exacting requirements like water for chocolate. Hunger is inevitable even as the lion lies with the lamb in a recurrent, transient truce.
The best kept secrets are a kind of wound up spring, a potential power source for destruction or delight, intensified with time and temptation. They conceal strength, commitment, loyalty, humour, and empathy. Letting the cat out of the bag requires foresight, an immaculate sense of timing for maximum impact or merely fluke now that it has gone.
Hurdles and goals aside, the Capricorn goat leads us into the New Year climbing his awesome mountain of worldly success and material achievement in preparation for the steep descent of inevitable selflessness.