My happy places are: Valletta in various moods and times; Sliema at twilight and for lone, spontaneous walks; Attard-Balzan-Rabat for indelible memories and undeniable, cosy beauty and, perhaps topping it all, the childhood fairyland that thankfully remains much the same, Banja Vrujci.
These places and others are what leave an impression – what reminds me of the raw matter that is true happiness and how it can continue to spread when “recollected in tranquility”.
And in many ways this is how the Christmas period functioned, for me. It’s not a family tradition and latterly it’s become little more than an annoyance for various reasons, but at least it gives me the perfect excuse to eschew all else – intellectual and otherwise – and my quiet little place amid everybody else’s celebratory din helps me to remember all the things that are important to me.
These often come in the form of memories, of course. What we cherry-pick from our past is a very important indicator of what remains important to us.
As I suspect is the case with most people, I’ve been placing quite a bit of stock on my ambitions of late. But such a relentless focus on them means fatigue sets in quick and fast.
So I’ve come to appreciate Christmas – most especially Christmas Day itself – as a kind of oasis.
Just as human beings have the misfortune of being animals saddled with the puzzling gift of self-consciousness – with all its problems – this also means that with enough self-awareness and emotional balance, we can fabricate things about ourselves, to ourselves, for our benefit.
Speaking of nostalgia, and variants of it… I really enjoyed the new Star Wars movie. Star Wars, too, is a lot like Christmas (or is it Christmas that’s a lot like Star Wars?).
Because just like Christmas, the franchise is a stark reminder of the pervasive power of capitalism – how it truly has the entire world in its grip, how it appropriates all stories and pieties into its gaping maw to further perpetuate a relentless desire for consumption.
The Christmas story is put aside in favour of “the gift economy” and our expectations for the holiday are calibrated to ‘spend and receive’ – in the same way as our beloved Star Wars characters are intrinsically wended to a film production and distribution model that views the movie and its merchandising as basically interchangeable.
But like Christmas, Star Wars still means a lot of things to a lot of people.
The saga – now in its seventh ‘episode’ – may be suspect in its method of delivery, but what it stimulates in people can’t be denied either.
It’s lovable alongside the cynical nature of its (internal or external?) dynamics, not despite of them.
Of course none of this is ‘natural’, and neither is it self-evident. Like the very act of writing an ‘essay’ – etymologically referring to the process of working things out – all of this is built out of opinions and perceptions chiseled out across time – and it’s entirely open to scrutiny.
But we can choose the fabrications that work the best for us – applying the usual caveat that this is a power we should try use for good and not ill.
But the decision to release The Force Awakens during Christmastime strikes me as a very shrewd fabrication indeed.
New Year’s Eve, in fact, carries more weight for me and my family. This is partly down to national habits – it’s the big blowout celebration of the season in Serbia, gift-giving and all – and family habits too: my sister and I now carry the baton of organising a party each year.
The day after, dazed if not hungover while munching on leftovers, often tends to be an emotionally woozy time.
In more recent years, revisiting the apartment we grew up in to host the party has come with an edge of melancholy. Gentrification means that it’ll soon be beyond my father’s price range (he still rents there) and all of our memories of the place will remain just that.
It’s another reminder of just how important it is to keep mindful of the things that matter. Memories will never be solid, but you should work hard to make them as solid as possible.
Have a great 2016, all.