Lately I have been feeling like the exception that proves the rule. Then I decided I am not alone. So if you feel slightly out of step with the current parade, this column’s for you.
First I had to do a bit of research on the very phrase and discovered the closest that comes to it that I could find is a quote of Robert Burton from his exhaustive masterpiece, “Anatomy of Melancholy.” The title is pretty exhaustive, too, so I’ll quit there. Burton wrote the first edition of his book in 1621, so exceptions have been acknowledged for a long time. His actual phrase is “No rule is so general that admits not some exception.” It is probably apt that the quote comes from a book about melancholy because people who are exceptional probably often feel melancholic as a result of feeling like the exception.
As the Christmas season approaches, it is difficult not to feel a bit sad at all of the related activities that I cannot get enthusiastic about. In San José alone, there are going to be putting up a Christmas tree, a long-time tradition handed down from pagan to Christian days by people who obviously love lighted decorations on a tree and presents under it.
In the middle of all of this, in front of the Teatro Nacional, once again the nativity scene is being erected to commemorate the birth of Christ on Dec. 25th (a date also borrowed from a pagan day of celebration, since no one knows the actual birth date of Christ.) And the Christmas carols! Both sacred and secular. My favorite is “Have yourself a merry little Christmas,” because there is something sadly nostalgic about it, especially when Judy Garland sang it.
And all of the shopping! I think that is where I got off the train and became an exception. We’ve gone from pagan to Christian to consumerism. More people are involved in Black Friday than Good Friday. Easy to understand. When I was a kid, Good Friday was a day of deprivation, taken on willingly.
Black Friday is a day of overindulgence and instant gratification, also taken on willingly.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I like tradition. I love mythology and even believe that many myths are history. It is the new touches to tradition that bother me.
I am surprised that with accusations of sexual misconduct by U.S. Presidential candidate, Herman Cain, no one has asked for the meaning of inappropriate. The word has been tossed around as often as is was in the days of Clinton.
However, I began to wonder what the meanings of exception and exceptional actually are. Exception is “A person or thing different from or treated differently from others of the same class.” Exceptional goes along with the idea of being the exception and not ordinary. But it also has taken on some new meanings, such as needing special attention or presenting a special problem, (notably in education) because of being “either mentally gifted, or, on the other hand, mentally or physically or emotionally handicapped.” I guess you take your pick when you use the word.
Thursday was also the 63rd anniversary of the abolishment of the military in Costa Rica. Traditionally, the commemoration has been held at the Museo Nacional. I remember the 50th anniversary celebration when at the end, the then president, some past presidents, and some school children opened the boxes they were holding to release hundreds of butterflies into the sky, a sky free of war planes or the sound of artillery. Over the years the commemorative celebrations I attended became more modest.
This year, President Chinchilla evidently is combining the celebration with congratulating a group of new graduates from the police academy. I won’t be attending that, either. I might find it a little uncomfortable because I remember the Guardia Civil when I lived in Majorca. Sometimes the duties of police and that of soldiers get confused.
I am sorry to have missed the peace celebration held in Parque Nacional and sponsored by the peace center in San Jose. Actually, some already confirmed plans and a deadline prevented that.
There are times when I wonder if being the exception simply means being lazy. But I’ll just “muddle through somehow,” as Judy Garland sang, and I’ll have myself a merry little Christmas when the time comes.