Santa and dollars. What is real?

If you are under 12... you shouldn't even be reading this blog until you are 18

It happened on Easter Sunday when I was seven.  My family was staying at our Montana cabin out in the woods and my older brother and I were looking for all the goodies that the Easter Bunny had hidden for us.  At one point I had stopped looking and started playing with a toy when my mom said, "I bet the Easter Bunny would hide something behind that chair."  She pointed her finger and I ran off too check it out and found another small toy.  As soon as I picked it up I looked at my mom and the whole belief vaporized into myth.  

"Mom.  You are the Easter Bunny, aren't you?"  I asked with a sudden flush.

Her shoulders dropped and she said, "Yes.  I am."

It all hit me then and I kept asking and she, my brother, and my dad kept replying.

"Tooth fairy?"
With the biggest hesitation, "Santa too?"

She then told me not to tell any of my friends because I shouldn't ruin these things for them. The trip back home that day was quiet.  I had the last of my magical loot in the seat beside me and I felt suddenly much older.  The magic of belief and the belief in magic had evolved into knowing neither magic nor belief existed.  The fences going by and the telephone poles were more real than anything else that day.  

I don't judge the value to perpetuate the myth of Santa and his gift-bearing siblings.  It is up to parents to decide if they want to keep these magical myths going.  I wonder though why we create a *magical belief that is so rooted inside our culture to uphold.  If I say there is no Santa, people shush me and look to see if any kids are around.  It feels like I almost said "fuck and rape" by the responses and dirty looks I get.

Santa is based off of Saint Nicholas of Greece.  Over the years, he has morphed into his current version (and even that is changing with stupid debates over his skin color and his portrayal of obesity) that we perpetuate.  Along with him, the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny continue to evolve and give better inflation-rated gifts over the years.

So again, why does our culture need these magical beliefs?  Are there other similar beliefs that we hold so true in our hearts, even as adults? 

I started thinking of things that once were not true, but now have become believed as true over the years.  I also started thinking of things that once were beliefs that are now gone or fading away.  Here are some of the first that came to mind.

  • Inferiority in intellect/moral fortitude of a gender, sexual orientation or race.  (Probably everything racist, sexist or homophobic is part of this)
  • Fear mongering of the enemies of a nation over the years - Communists, Soviets, Muslims, etc.
  • The sins of sex
  • Dick Clark never aged.

Along with all of these I came upon the biggest magical belief that almost every country holds.  It is so pervasive that our existence holds its value to be so important that wars, murder, and mayhem go crazy over it to hoard.  It is the dollar, yen, euro, pound.  It is money.

I have an old twenty dollar bill from the 1950's.  On the front it states:
This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private, and is redeemable in lawful money at the United  States Treasury, or at any Federal Reserve Bank.

If you look at one printed now it says.
This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private. 
As many of you know, American money was once based on the Gold Standard in which the paper money was representative of actual gold held in reserve as the backer of value.  At one point though, this was done away with.  That new twenty dollar note is not worth that much because the paper it is printed on is not made of expense materials.  The ink is pretty cheap as well.  It isn't a note that can be directly exchanged for gold stored as proof of value.  That twenty dollar bill is only worth twenty dollars because we have ingrained it into our minds that it is worth it.

If I went to the store today and bought twenty dollars worth of groceries tonight and still had forty left in my wallet and then the zombie apocalypse hit, which could I use to exchange for other goods or services, the left over money or the groceries?  The can of spam would be worth much more than the piece of paper with $20 on it because it truly would have value as a consumable.  In that moment, aside from fighting off zombies, everyone would have the same realization that I had at seven about Santa.  Money isn't real.  Fence posts and telephone poles are real.

I started to see this a few years ago during the recession.  My 401k dropped in value by 75%, as did my home.  One month I had x dollars invested, the next I had 1/4x.  I didn't see any of this stuff happen.  It just disappeared.  On the other hand, my home was still there.  Even though it was worth much less money than it was a year before, I didn't lose an actual 75% chunk of it.  It is still 1410 square feet, two stories high, with a detached garage.  It is the magic-belief-paper-money value of it that was lost.

It is things we truly consume that have value.  Food holds value.  Shelter is valuable.  Medicine is pretty good too.  What about jewelry?  That depends on whether its beauty is valuable or its components hold value for use and in other modes.  What about ideas?  Good ideas are valuable, such as the idea of better way to build a wall to keep zombies out.  That would be worth some spam.  Good music would be valuable as an escape and reprieve from existence, as well as books and other arts.  Friendship, family, and human bonds would be worth much too as our ancestors learned by living in communities.  Of course the value, and trade, of the world's oldest profession will never change.

In this season of giving, stop the craziness of thought that the price tag behind the gift makes it better.  I know it is trite to repeat the cliche of "It isn't the gift, it's the spirit of the gift that counts", but it is true.

I had a coworker look at me, mouth agape, when I told her I was getting my wife a massage and making her dinner for Christmas.  She then stated (semi-joking), "There had better be a Gucci something beside that dinner."  I just smiled and walked away knowing that for us, a relaxed and nurtured body massaged of stress and filled with amazing pot roast is worth more than something sold at Bloomingdales.

*I am not addressing issues of faith and religion with this post.


  1. Karl, I'm so glad you posted. I miss your posts and look for one every day even when they don't appear for long periods of time. As always, you inspire me to write something on my blog. No, I am not surprised that money is only on paper. Scrooge that I may seem to my family and friends, my gift giving is scarce and lean, and I really don't look for gifts either. I like to give when the occasion is right and there's something I can do for someone else.

    My son and his wife have reached this point of saying, "Please don't get us anything. Give to a charity instead." My new granddaughter is limited to one toy per grandparent. She will be a much happier child for this, and she has no illusions about who bought and gave the toy. So all agreement so far. What I'd like to say more about, and will, is this:

    "Inferiority in intellect/moral fortitude of a gender, sexual orientation or race. (Probably everything racist, sexist or homophobic is part of this)" [has been eradicated or is on the wane - not quoting your exact phrasing but that's the gist I'm taking away]

    You forgot one word. Ageism. In 2014 I will turn 70, and because I still model for fine art nude, that remains the most discussed fact about my work. Over the last decade, I've tried to accept that it's not a bad thing when people look at this as noteworthy. However. A recent incident I observed with a photographer's posting of one of our works on dA shows that a woman's age, just the number, completely changes how old she looks to others, their perceptions. Watch for it. And THANK YOU!!!! Please keep writing!!!

    1. I did overlook "ageism". I am now starting to notice it at my age of 44. It is nothing that I can compare to the younger and older citizens though. I may have to write a post about a recent scientific instance of supported ageism that I learned of.

  2. Karl, please do! Your inspiration has now generated yet another post at What We Saw Today.

  3. Good post Karl, thanks!

    I full appreciate you bringing forward the difference between money and value, it is such a huge difference that so few really appreciate! And magic is a huge subject, the way it does so much damage to so many lives blurring the lines between the inner and outer reality, setting belief as equal to fact and leaving the world to live with the consequences. And so true it is that the best of gifts most often didn't cost anyone a dime, and the dime wouldn't matter anyhow because the value given can't be expressed in material units. Well done.

    1. CD - Thanks for the comment. It is true that best gifts have greater value than any money could attributed it. My wife's snuggle before walking up on Christmas was about the best gift ever.


So,what are you thinking about?