CHRISTMAS approaches, and I muse about the Christian church, love and Internet dating.
Something tells me that the last subject is more compelling for today's readers than the other two. Patience. Wait for it.
All right, I bow to your begging. "Please, please, Uncle T., we don't want to wait." Gather 'round.
Apparently some sharp TV producers, soon to grow rich, glommed onto the idea of videotaping the actual face-to-face meeting of decidedly less sharp persons who had "met" through Internet dating.
Encountering the real person behind the little dots on the screen evidently can be disillusioning - like a kick in the head, where the brain is alleged to reside.
One young gent on a television clip entered a door and asked the plain, built-somewhat-like-a-fireplug woman where so-and-so could be found. "I am she," replied the fireplug, perhaps less grammatically. The young man's fallen face signalled that he felt he'd been hosed. Somehow her Internet description had been seriously misleading.
For balance, another attractive couple was shown who quickly fell into each other's arms, the wrapping all they had been led to expect and, judging from their ardour, each eager to unwrap the underlying gift.
Not surprisingly, apart from other evils, dating on the Internet invites not just crushing disappointment but danger.
What a comment on our technically ingenious and morally lame society. How bizarre that many people today are so lonely, alienated, cut off, shy or whatever that they'll post their alleged, imagined or tarted-up attractions on the Internet and hope their dreams will acquire flesh.
It will bewilder my young readers, but in the fairly recent (and, as often called with an implied sneer, innocent) past, dating opportunities were an important function of the church - through Sunday services, youth clubs and Bible study.
In early teens, my brother belonged to our United Church young people's group - which, with the church's heavily Methodist origins, must have been giddy stuff.
My brother was even urged to consider joining the clergy by the minister, who marched under the thunderously triumphalist name of the Rev. Hiram Hull.
I, six years younger, never got involved, though I still treasure my Sunday school New Testament given me in 1942.
We moved a lot: five homes, five schools in four years, which now I'm tempted to see as a mild form of abuse. One summer, aged 11, I attended church day camp.
The lay minister led us in a hymn concerning ascension to heaven. I, young fool, impetuously mimed doing an upwards hand-over-hand on a (silver?) rope. The furious minister cast me out into deepest sunlight. I never returned. Today you see the fruits of my apostasy.
More seriously, I don't second-guess God beyond certainty of his existence. It's the atheists whose "reason" requires suspension of skeptical faculties.
My wife is one of those Scots-blooded persons who somehow manage to be both radical and conservative. When our children - the Biggest, the Middlest and the Littlest - were small, I weakly protested they should go to Sunday school.
My wife didn't so much disagree as to let the suggestion slide toward what the courts call sine die, an unnamed day that will never come. The influence was doubtless her late mother, a lapsed Presbyterian with some never-disclosed animus toward her church.
Yet she and my wife could stand as rock-solid models of quietly good Christian behaviour.
My wife did collaborate in my own Christmas ritual. Every Christmas Eve we took the children, otherwise unblemished by any Biblical taint, to the glorious, crowded service at Vancouver's Christ Church Anglican Cathedral. Children were called to gather around the baby Jesus's creche. I cried. I cry readily. Not very manly, if you ask me.
The children are now in their twenties. In the last year or two things got in the way, and we didn't attend. Last year I went, alone, to a sad little suburban service where the choir almost outnumbered the worshippers.
At our recent Christmas planning meetings I innocently thought we'd all resume the tradition.
Free from being bundled up and sentenced to do their parents' bidding, the children have zero interest. Usually reliable sources informed me they never much liked going.
At press time negotiations were continuing.
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Cute title: "Keep Calm and Carol On," a concert tomorrow at 7: 30 p.m. at Mount Seymour United.
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Family or friend with theatre interests? Christmas gift suggestion: Susan McNicoll's The Opening Act: Canadian Theatre History 1945-1953 (Talonbooks). Lively anecdotes, many local and national actors whom older persons will remember.
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Rosemary Burrows was first among readers to correctly relocate the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, not Milan, as I misstated recently. No excuse for forgetting; I was there only 58 years ago.