How are you? I hope you, and Mrs. Claus, and the elves, and the reindeer are all feeling good.
Since I last wrote you a couple of weeks ago, Santa, I realized something: you're the undisputed expert in the diplomacy business. I mean, no one else even comes close to your record of finding the right balance between what people want, what people deserve, and what people need.
For different reasons, Santa, this thought has particularly struck me. It is not just because of the time of year; it is also because of recent events that show how difficult it is to find the right "balance" for anything. What worries me the most, Santa, is whether we are acquiring the right priorities, the right "needs", to allow us to contribute to a long-term growth of civilization. I wonder if our view of "progress" is actually a step or two backwards.
For example, a while ago in Seoul we all learned how a strong "want" that is not properly balanced against what is deserved, or what is needed, can cause even a nation to despair in shame. In such instances the blame cannot be placed solely on a single person; it is our society that silently approves such actions, even by its inability to completely, thoroughly reject any teaching that is contrary. We cannot moan the lack of ethics if we are unable to introduce them such that they become a permanent part of our very being.
The area that is most disturbing, Santa, is the business environment's overshadowing of the home. Too many of us are automatically providing what our employer wants without giving any thought to what our children and our friends need. The business culture has gone sour when it feels weekends (or parts of weekends, or some weekends) are sufficient for time with the people we care about. Interpersonal relationships need more than just weekends to be fostered and grown. (The irony is that our society, as technology progressed, was to have more, not less, leisure time. Indeed, instead of increasing the quantity of time, we have created the theory/excuse of "quality of time".)
Come to think of it, Santa, "technological progress" has more than one impact on our children. They are also affected by the changes in their education, in their leisure, in their very childhood. We want to ensure their survival, and thus provide our children a background in the objective tools and techniques that a technological future would require, without consideration for whether it is the future they (or we) will ultimately accept.
My baby sister, Jeannine Athena-Carissa, at her young age knows more about computers than I did when I finished high school. This truly concerns me, Santa. I know that it will be in her immediate advantage to be "computer literate" during these and later years. However, I sense that before one can fully understand and apply the words and theories of Pascal, Babbage, Dijkstra, Yourdon, Martin, and von Neumann, one must first read, appreciate, and cherish the words and thoughts of Homer, Twain, Asimov, Dickinson, Shakespeare, and Christian Anderson. There has to be a human literacy before there can be a positive computer literacy.
It's been a difficult year for a lot of people: finding an internal balance is much more bewildering than anything the Great Wallendas ever tried. And for you, Santa, the hard work is just beginning. If there's room in your bag for just one more wish, please give everyone a little bit more of your sense of balance; a little less of what their employers want; a little more of what everyone deserves; and, most important of all, a lot more of what the children need.
Vernon R.J. Schmid
Your comments, suggestions, questions, or concerns would be very much appreciated. Please direct them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: 2005-01-22.
The above was orignally written in 1988 for the Edmonton CIPS Newsletter, and I used it as my printed Christmas card the following year. (That is why there is no Christmas card on this site for 1989.) The "a while ago in Seoul" is a reference to Ben Johnson. The reference to "My baby sister" is not quite correct -- it should have been "My babiest sister", because Jeannine Athena-Carissa Schmid is really my babiest sister. (Carla, who is younger than me and older than Jeannine, is my baby sister....)