It seems as if lately I’m running into a lot of “must”s that do nothing but make me want to head in the opposite direction. This is not a “must” world. No one knows for sure why we are here and what we are supposed to be doing, otherwise there would be no religions, no philosophies, no psychologies, no debates of any kind. We would all simply do whatever it is that we must, and that would be that. There are certain things that we take as musts, such obeying laws, paying taxes, nourishing ourselves, but even those aren’t musts. We don’t have to do them, though there are consequences if we take that risk.
Since this is a mustless world, we have to make it up as we go along, and none of us has the right to thrust our musts on anyone else.
For example, someone I’ve done some online work for tells me I must not be negative and tell him something won’t work or that I don’t know how to make it work even if I know what I say is true. And yet, when I asked a woman who manages the management company that manages the office space of such high profile companies as Amazon and Google if she would consider such an assessment to be negative, she said no. That she valued honesty in her employees. That if she knows what doesn’t work, she can head in a different direction and find something that does work. Yes! Exactly. One person’s must not is another person’s must.
Then there is this quote I saw today from Stephen King. He wrote: “You can approach the act of writing with excitement, hopefulness, even despair. You can come to the act with fists clenched and eyes narrowed. You can come to it to change the world. Come to it any way you want but lightly. You must not come lightly to the blank page.” Must not? Must not? Who is he to say what I must or must not do? For some of us, coming lightly to the blank page is the only way we can entice those shy ideas and bashful words to come out to play.
And worst of all, I recently saw a T-shirt with a a picture of santa claus (Not a typo. I’m purposely demoting him/it to a state of non-capitalization) and the words, “You must believe.” Must believe? I don’t think so. In fact, because of this thrust to make me believe in something so patently absurd, I no longer have any affection for the creature at all.
In a recent advice column, a woman wrote “When I have kids, I don’t want to do the whole “Santa” thing. I’d rather tell them about the real St. Nicholas and what it means to give rather than to receive. Even though I’m not religious, I’ll tell them about the birth of Jesus (even though he wasn’t born in December), and tell them about the winter solstice.” Sounds admirable to me, but her friends told her she was a scrooge for taking her children’s innocence away, which is why she wrote to the columnist for another opinion. The overwhelming online response was that such a woman shouldn’t have children. Even those who agreed she had a right to her stance suggested that “just for fun” she wrap a couple of small presents and put them under the tree “from santa.”
What the hell is going on in the world? Aren’t there more important things to worry about than a must belief in santa claus? The world takes away children’s innocence by starving them, by making them old at a young age (no more dolls for preteens except hooker-like dolls), by creating fearful atmospheres in schools, by television programs that show them things no child should ever have to see, and yet, oh yes, we must make sure they believe in a mythical creature to keep what innocence is left. Cripes.
So, let’s make a pact for this coming year. I won’t must you, and you don’t must me.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.