The sun just breaking over the horizon. Blue Ridge Overlook, Black Rock Mountain State Park, Mountain City, Georgia.
The Spring Star Flower (Ipheion uniflorum), one of the first flowers I see every spring. Always a happy reminder that it’s time to get back out and start shooting again.
If you are not open to questioning the evidence supporting the idea of a bearded arctic elf dispensing toys then you probably shouldn’t read any further.
Several years ago I stopped believing in Santa Claus. I think I was seven. I don’t remember the exact order of any of the events but I do remember a few of the details that caused me to begin doubting the tradition that was handed down to me from my parents.
An inquisitive child, I always looked for the explanation of how things worked. I liked looking at cutaway views of cars, machines and even people in my dad’s textbooks. It was kind of a puzzle for me. When I couldn’t figure something out I didn’t have any problem asking questions. And in most areas of study my parents were plenty open to answer my questions.
Here are a few of the questions that I had about the favorite Christmas tradition.
If Santa supposedly judged people who were naughty or nice why were so many nice kids getting crappy presents while so many naughty kids would rake in the goods? Santa sure didn’t seem to be taking quite as accurate and accounting as I would have expected. I began to notice that the disparity seemed to have little to do with being naughty or nice and more to do with where your parents worked and how many siblings you had.
Why are charities necessary? I remember asking my mom once when I saw a Marine at a grocery store, “Who is he?” “He’s one of Santa’s helpers. He’s collecting money to help by toys for poor kids.” “Doesn’t Santa visit poor kids?” “Here help me with these groceries”. This caused me to start wondering which presents came for Santa directly and which came from one of his “helpers”.
How in the world could he do all of that in one night? It was clear that there had to be multiple Santa’s or the typical image of Santa as a fat old man was flawed. Those reindeer would have to travel so fast from house to house that they travelled back in time exactly the length it took Santa to set up the last house.
How did he fit all that stuff in one sleigh? My mom would completely fill the truck of our Mustang on a trip to the grocery store. Santa clearly would have to make multiple trips back to the North Pole to restock. This just compounds the whole, “how does it get it all done in one day?” question.
Was he really reading all of those letters? If so why did good kids still not get what they asked for? This was the early 70’s. I know several kids who asked for World Peace. Santa still hasn’t delivered that one. Santa seemed like he either wasn’t reading the letters, wasn’t as powerful as we thought, or he just didn’t care. All of these possibilities are troubling.
It also became clear that adults knew something was up but didn’t want to tell the kids. There was some kind of cover-up. There were details about Christmas that I overheard adults talking about that were never discussed openly around children. Perhaps they knew how to solve my time-traveling reindeer puzzle. But they weren’t telling.
I could go on and on for a while, but I think you get the point. Eventually my mom broke the news to me that Santa Claus was a fun little fiction. I responded almost immediately, “You’re Santa Claus.” She nodded her head and confirmed it. I was no longer puzzled by the little inconsistencies in the stories. I no longer had to try to make sense of them. It was fun to just pretend and realize that nothing was real.
The best thing Santa Claus ever did for me was to cease to be real. Mom explained that it was people who were making Christmas real. It was just people. I no longer felt the need to suck up for the approval of an all knowing bearded dude. The people who were really important and who ultimately made Christmas what it is were much closer to home. Santa is my parents. Santa is my brothers and sisters. Santa is the Marine collecting toys. Santa is the people on the street being nice to each other. Santa is the neighbor sewing pajamas and leaving them anonymously on our doorstep.
Now that I know the truth I wouldn’t dream of trying to go back to believing anything else. It all makes sense now and it’s much more beautiful. I don’t want to spoil that.
Since I have left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I have had numerous well-meaning people attempt to persuade me back into the church. I respect that they think they are doing a good thing. A few insinuated that I really haven’t tried to believe as hard as I should have. So let me ask you few readers this question.
“What would it take for you to believe in Santa Claus again?”
Could you do it? Could you ignore the massive amount of evidence that it was the parents doing it? Could you just go back to dropping a letter in the mailbox and honestly expecting a response? Could you start ignoring the needs of people around you with the attitude that Santa would take care of them? Could you go back to not giving credit to the amazing people around you who help make your life easier, instead giving credit to Santa? Why in the world would you even want to go back to that belief?
I got a letter in the mail today from the First Presidency of the Church. The letter urged me to reconsider and come back to the church. I typed up this little analogy to express how unlikely that would be. I don’t even want it to be true anymore. What I have found is so much better. I’m not bothered by the inconsistencies in the story, the unanswered prayers, the logical impossibilities, the complete contradictions, and all the cover-up to keep people believing.
It would be just as difficult for me to go back to believing in Santa Claus.
When my son, Spencer, was two, my wife and I took him to the Georgia aquarium to see some sea creatures. He was having a blast and absolute awe of all the animals we were seeing. Throughout the course of our visit, we wandered into the Georgia Explorer section which is geared toward children. It has petting tanks, a playground, and educational resources written at an elementary school level. If there was anywhere in the aquarium where kids should be given priority it’s here. In fact at most exhibits any of the adults that were there would gladly stand back and let Spencer stand up front so he could get a good view. At the Sea Turtle tank though, there was a guy with a fancy professional camera and lens taking pictures, and he didn’t seem to care whose view he was blocking, he was going to get his shot. At one point, shortly after the above picture was taken, Murphy (the loggerhead sea turtle) was swimming up in the tank presenting a perfect photo op. The photographer decided he needed to get that shot, so he stepped in front of me, and pushed Spencer to the side so he could have an unobstructed view of the tank. I was furious and told the guy so. He gave a less than sincere “sorry”, and held up his camera as though that somehow excused his behavior.
Now, I was shooting that day too. It’s how I got the photo above and the one on the left (one of my best sellers). However, I wasn’t jumping in front of people to get the shot, and I certainly wasn’t treating my camera as a license to be rude. Far from it, if I felt that people were stopping to avoid getting in my shot, I would often lower my camera so they aren’t stuck waiting on me.
I had mostly forgotten about this particular incident, until recently when Scott Kelby made a joke on Google+ about why tripods weren’t allowed inside a particular tourist attraction. As he quipped, he thought that by photographers having tripods in the attraction, the site would lose the 50 cents it makes selling postcard prints of the exhibits. In my opinion, it had nothing to do with cutting into profits on card sales and everything to do with keeping the 99% of their patrons who don’t show up with a tripod happy.
I’ve been to numerous places where I’ve encountered rude photographers who will setup their shot in prime viewing locations, blocking other patrons, and disrupting the flow of traffic all so they could get the shot. For some reason they feel a sense of entitlement to get a shot. Even though they didn’t pay any more than anyone else to visit that attraction, yet, they have decided that their having a camera and tripod gave them license to be inconsiderate of everyone else. No, it seems more likely, to me that ”no tripod” policies often come about as a result of all the other patrons complaining about these jerks.
Most places like this will gladly allow press and other photographers access to the attraction. The problem is that most photographers would rather spend money on gear than access to a location that would get them incredible shots, so they pay the regular ticket fees and act like they own the place.
As photographers, there is no license to interfere with others’ appreciation of a place; far from it, we should be especially conscientious about not disrupting others. A photographer and his gear can be a major distraction to others, and it should be our goal to adhere to rules of common courtesy and be as unobtrusive as possible.
I’ve been thinking, a rather unsafe activity for me.
I’ve always been aware that I don’t fit in with the people around me. I stand out like a sore thumb…. and this isn’t just because I dyed my hair purple….. I don’t fit in various ways, my opinions are different, my out look is different, and just in general I’m different. I’m from a part of the south that spends a lot of time gossiping about and/or categorizing people, whether it be by appearance back ground, or whatever.
This week I’ve finally managed to pin point why I don’t fit. First off, I try my hardest to avoid gossiping in general, it’s not my place to judge people in the slightest, I’m not perfect I can’t judge them because their imperfections are different than mine…. the other reason is the face that I don’t fit into any of their categories. I’m not Goth, I’m not Emo, i”m not a pregnant teen, i’m not a goody two shoes, i’m not a trouble maker, I simply am what I am and you can take it or leave it. Most people are used to these categories, since i don’t fit they don’t know how to deal with me.
The problem I’ve realized I have with this issue is the fact that as I’ve grown up, I’ve allowed myself to be pushed into one of these categories by people. So, they put me into a category and i only display the attributes of myself that fit their category. As a consequence of this stupid practice of mine, there are very few people I could willingly say know me. And now that I’m about to be on my own, i’m afraid that this will continue. I really need to work on getting past my masks and just be myself……
This is my musing for the day, i just needed to get it out of my mind because there are tons of other things on my mind at the moment and it’s all getting clogged up. Any suggestions for how i can work past this issue???