The idea of Santa Claus is kind of lovely when you think about it. It’s a kindly old man dedicating his life to ensuring that children all over the world, at least once a year, get a gift. And, somehow, the universe acknowledged that goodness and rewarded him with elf helpers, magic reindeer and immortality to ensure that not a single Christmas goes by when children don’t feel loved.
And just because you know it’s not true doesn’t make that story any less nice. It doesn’t discourage you from teaching your own kids about it. It doesn’t stop you smiling when you see how blissfully happy the story makes any child, the way only a child can express.
And you can look back and appreciate how happy that story made you when you were that age. And you can enjoy seeing someone else experience exactly that joy.
The value of a story, or an idea, or any groundless belief is not in its factual nature, but in the good it does for those who hold onto it. That may be as simple and innocent as getting excited about presents on an otherwise boring winter morning. Or it may be as profoundly important as feeling assured that someone you love and miss is in a better place, waiting for you.
But when you stop waiting up at night for Santa – when you can no longer find the fairies and goblins you used to play with – that doesn’t mean that you can’t still get excited about what’s left of life.
You just have to look a little closer at the world around you to find it.
You could’ve been born to any mother in any country at any time in all of history – or you might never have been born at all – and you were lucky enough to end up surrounded by all the people who love you. You are a member of the most intelligent species that has ever existed. You can communicate with almost anyone in the world without leaving your own home.
The oceans, forest, fields of this world sustain more life than in the rest of our solar system, potentially our whole universe. And you get to experience it all. From adorable kitten videos and pictures of puppies sleeping entwined with babies, to elephants that grieve for their lost elders and monkeys who rescue Labradors from drowning.
Plants and animals alike embellish themselves to look poisonous or attractive or interesting. They evolve to survive all kinds of conditions and to live in all kinds of ways. They show initiative that we still only dream about.
You can call it God or Fate or a weird, miraculous coincidence that such wonderful things exist on our little world, and it is entirely your choice what you believe.
But whatever story you attribute to them, they remain ever beautiful without any reasoning. Don’t forget to appreciate them simply for what they are.
Because the measurable, universal reality of our world is more incredible than any story ever will be.