Lawyer, now judge John Kralik turned his life around after he belatedly discovered the power of ‘thank you,’ wrote a book about it, and then lived happily ever after.
Or at least that’s how such ‘feel good’ fables go. One presumes the once struggling, sad and relationship-dysfunctional lawyer remains happily “ever after” – – – now felicitously berobbed and contentedly holding the business end of his gavel.
His failing law firm and painful second divorce are well behind him. While life may have once been Like A Box A Chocolates, it’s surely now a more predictable and consistent bowl of cherries.
Yes, life can be good. Even the late, nearly if not always dearly departed atheist, Christopher Hitchens, also found it meaningful notwithstanding that “It could be that all existence is a pointless joke, but it is not in fact possible to live one’s everyday life as if this were so.”
Hitchens once referred to himself as “a mere and gross materialist, with no expectation of a life to come.” This was during one of his frequent polemics with those derided believers in “supernatural nonentities.” See Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22
But to be fair, he did also state in the same book that “A life that partakes even a little of friendship, love, irony, humor, parenthood, literature, and music, and the chance to take part in battles for the liberation of others cannot be called ‘meaningless’ except if the person living it is also an existentialist and elects to call it so.” Critic, essayist Christopher Hitchens died at 62 last Thursday, December 15, 2011.
Meaningful life or not, this finally gets me to the other point, which is related to Kralik’s importance of written thank you cards. And it’s about the now culturally atavistic practice of exchanging ‘snail mail’ holiday cards, a.k.a. to the politically incorrect contrarian as “Christmas Cards.”
It used to be axiomatic that businesses and even lawyers would join the phalanxes of long forgotten relatives and seasonal friends in the ritualistic exchange of holiday cards. “Happy Hanukkah” and “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” Or more P.C., “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings.”
It was considered a good marketing practice for businesses and a required social grace our mothers taught the rest of us. But with e-mail, social media, texting, and a generalized decline in outward manifestations of etiquette, it’s little wonder holiday cards have become like thank you cards – – in a word, passé.
Just 4 years ago, the U.S. Postal Service reported upwards of 25 billion holiday cards were mailed. The Postal Service expects fewer holiday cards will make their way via snail mail this year. The projection is 16.5 billion cards, down a third from 2007.
The reasons are varied. Part of it is cost, especially in a jobless economy. And the other is everybody’s favorite excuse, “I have no time.” And then there’s that ‘ash heap of history’ rationale, the one about it being passé and old-fashioned. In other words, “Get with it.”
Ancient cave drawers gave up charcoal, dirt, animal fat and spit when papyrus arrived. Wax seals and quill pens were displaced by ball points and typewriters and they in turn, lost out to computers, PDAs and smartphones.
With ‘faint praise’ but without impolite damnation, Anna Post, writing at “Holiday etiquette SOS,“ says e-mail holiday greeting cards are “better than none at all.”
But to her credit, she avers, “Part of why we reach out during the holidays is to make a personal connection, which you do by picking out a card and jotting a handwritten note.”
Nevertheless, I know I’ll get e-greetings from some this Christmas and fewer and fewer holiday cards from others. As for myself, I sent out my last batch of written holiday cards last week. They were sans charcoal, dirt, animal fat and spit. However, this past summer, I did turn up a fancy set of never-used fountain pens a dear friend gave me many years ago. Too expensive to use and a bit ostentatious, I once thought. But like a steelhead that returns to the same spot where its history began, I’ll be using them now.
Photo Credits: Christopher Hitchens, by IMGP3956 / Image:Christopher Hitchens.jpg at Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license; Christmas cards by Malene Thyssen, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Malene under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license; Lascaux Caves – Prehistoric Paintings, attribution: Peter80 under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license; MBs.jpg released into the public domain via Wikipedia Commons.