Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Gifts and Stories: Dim Their Glories

A very happy decade-digit-flip tomorrow, to those on the Gregorian Calendar!

I’m sitting here by my firing roar, sipping a brand of glassy and telling watchivision. Or something like that, anyway. And, considering the time of year, I thought it a good plan to examine this whole issue of giving gifts.

You daft little creatures with your commercialism and your fake goodwill do make me laugh! At least I’m happy to admit I’m an amoral vindictive arsehole. Look, if you’re going to give each other nice things, just do it: don’t wait for a proscribed time. It makes it all feel terribly forced, like a stiff handshake and even stiffer mouth-smile at the wedding of someone you despise. What’s the point? Do it throughout the year, or don’t bother. Most of the stuff you give each other serves only to line pockets anyway, and falls apart or gets thrown away.

Where I come from, nobody gets worked up about this stuff. If you want to help someone out by getting them something they need, you just do it. Gratitude is seen as a condition placed on the transaction, and therefore rude. It’s better to just lob something somebody’s way and forget about it.

One year I got an antigrav gazebo for one of my favourite cousins, since I knew she needed one, living as she does over a lake of mercury. It’s pretty hard to build stilts in that stuff. I didn’t expect even a thank you card for it, and why would I? I had the means, she had the need. Then again, we had one hell of a party there one night with the Polavvian Ambassador – so if you really want to be picky, I kind of got my payback in backhanders from the feds. Got to be said, though: watching a star set over a lake of mercury is a unique experience.

Now, I suppose I also need to discuss Santa – which is a bit more complicated. As I’ve mentioned, my culture has a rather stoical attitude to gifts. However, there are legends in our ancestral past, their origins now obscure. They tell of a rogue Noble called Hoorob, who lost his fortune betting on a shtangah race and subsequently took terrible revenge on a particular gang involved, who he was convinced had cheated. Shtangah are very delicate creatures, and can be nobbled simply by tying two of their legs togther. Since they have at least seven hundred legs, this isn’t always noticed by the officials. Anyway, as legend has it, Hoorob visited every member of the gang in turn, killed them, and stole all their treasure (this was a long time ago, when we used actual rare material resources as money). This amounted to such a vast fortune that he was able to invest it far across the galaxy out of sight, on a planet called Threng, whose very existence has never been proved. The annuities on this investment allowed him to return on a regular basis to deliver gifts to everyone back home, with the exception of all the descendants of the gang members he had slaughtered. Eventually, of course, due to interbreeding and so on, this came to include almost everyone on the planet, so his visits were less and less arduous and fewer and fewer gifts were received. The last individual reputed to have received a gift from Hoorob was a tiny old woman who lived in the mountains far above an equatorial town named Psunanimis. Apparently she was the last person on the planet who possessed no genetic material from the slaughtered gang’s bloodlines, and Hoorob gave her a potted plant that ate other people, which she placed outside her cave to prevent anyone bothering her. Because of this, it was about ten years before anyone realised she had finally died and Hoorob was no longer in business.

Well, allegedly. Nobody knows where Hoorob ended up, nor even whether he was real in the first place. There are some similarities to your Santa Claus myth here, though perhaps he also has a few things in common with Robin Hood. The strange coincidence of the name “Hoorob” has not passed unnoticed by yours truly, and in the past I’ve attempted to find an underlying reason – but so far, I’ve turned up nothing.

I won’t write any more about Christmas at this point. I mean, I suppose I could write about the actual beliefs… not only Jesus but the ancient Yule festivities and gods and Norse and Germanic influences, and goodness knows what else. But that stuff bores me, to be honest. Believe what you want to believe. Just don’t let your beliefs dribble out of your own brain and contaminate anyone else’s and we’ll all get along. Personally, I’d like to think Jesus existed. He seems like a cool dude I could have done some Whoofweed with.

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