A European ChristmasWritten by C. Bailey-Lloyd/LadyCamelot
A European Christmas by C. Bailey-Lloyd
With holidays right around corner, it's hard not to reminisce our childhood memories and holidays of yesteryear. In each culture, there are differing values and traditions which are celebrated in different ways.
During 70's, growing up 'German' in Europe was one of most fascinating and magical decades. Having strong German roots, our family participated in many German Christmas traditions. One of those traditions was Advent. The Advent, or Christmas calendar, is picture-box calendar decorated with wintry & Christmas scenes, biblical characters and 'St. Nicolas.' On face of calendar, are 24 small doors, each containing a small chocolate - one opened each day for holiday season. The December 24th door, which is 'Heiligabend' (Christmas Eve) is usually largest door on calendar and most often contains a chocolate Nativity. As children, we relished in this fun, and tasty feature of holiday season.
But Advent wasn't simply comprised of Holiday Calendar, we also partook in Advent Wreath, or 'Adventskranz' which was beautifully displayed on tables throughout house. Wreathes held 4 candles; first candle being lit fourth Sunday before Christmas, and another one each Sunday thereafter. Around evergreen wreath of candles, our family would gather as each candle was meticulously lit. My mom would recite a simple, German passage each time she would light a candle:
"Advent, Advent Ein Kerzlein brent. Erst Eins, den Zwei, den Drei, den Vier - den steht der Christkind vor der tur."
Which translates into, 'Advent, Advent, a candle burns. First one, then two, then three, then four - then stands Christ Child before door.'
For you see, in Germany, it is 'Christkind' (Christ Child) who brings gifts on Christmas Eve.
Another childhood pastime was St. Nikolaustag Nikolaustag (St. Nicholas Day) was a fun and lighthearted tradition whereby children everywhere anxiously awaited arrival of December 6th when Nikolaus, or Weinachtsmann (Santa Claus) came. Leading up to Nikolaustag, we children would have to behave very well, because St. Nikolaus could 'see everything' we did. And night before December 6th, we would have to clean our winter boots meticulously to put outside our doors. Why heck would we clean our boots and place them outside our doors? Well, I'll tell you why - if we were good, and our boots were really clean, St. Nikolaus would stuff our boots with candies, little toys and chocolates. If we were bad, we would receive a bundle of switches or lumps of coal.
Being John MalkovichWritten by Sam Vaknin
A quintessential loser, an out-of-job puppeteer, is hired by a firm, whose offices are ensconced in a half floor (literally. The ceiling is about a metre high, reminiscent of Taniel's hallucinatory Alice in Wonderland illustrations). By sheer accident, he discovers a tunnel (a "portal", in Internet-age parlance), which sucks its visitors into mind of celebrated actor, John Malkovich. The movie is a tongue in cheek discourse of identity, gender and passion in an age of languid promiscuity. It poses all right metaphysical riddles and presses viewers' intellectual stimulation buttons.
A two line bit of dialogue, though, forms axis of this nightmarishly chimerical film. John Malkovich (played by himself), enraged and bewildered by unabashed commercial exploitation of serendipitous portal to his mind, insists that Craig, aforementioned puppet master, cease and desist with his activities. "It is MY brain" - he screams and, with a typical American finale, "I will see you in court". Craig responds: "But, it was I who discovered portal. It is my livelihood".
This apparently innocuous exchange disguises a few very unsettling ethical dilemmas.
The basic question is "whose brain is it, anyway"? Does John Malkovich OWN his brain? Is one's brain - one's PROPERTY? Property is usually acquired somehow. Is our brain "acquired"? It is clear that we do not acquire hardware (neurones) and software (electrical and chemical pathways) we are born with. But it is equally clear that we do "acquire" both brain mass and contents of our brains (its wiring or irreversible chemical changes) through learning and experience. Does this process of acquisition endow us with property rights?
It would seem that property rights pertaining to human bodies are fairly restricted. We have no right to sell our kidneys, for instance. Or to destroy our body through use of drugs. Or to commit an abortion at will. Yet, law does recognize and strives to enforce copyrights, patents and other forms of intellectual property rights.
This dichotomy is curious. For what is intellectual property but a mere record of brain's activities? A book, a painting, an invention are documentation and representation of brain waves. They are mere shadows, symbols of real presence - our mind. How can we reconcile this contradiction? We are deemed by law to be capable of holding full and unmitigated rights to PRODUCTS of our brain activity, to recording and documentation of our brain waves. But we hold only partial rights to brain itself, their originator.
This can be somewhat understood if we were to consider this article, for instance. It is composed on a word processor. I do not own full rights to word processing software (merely a licence), nor is laptop I use my property - but I posses and can exercise and enforce full rights regarding this article. Admittedly, it is a partial parallel, at best: computer and word processing software are passive elements. It is my brain that does authoring. And so, mystery remains: how can I own article - but not my brain? Why do I have right to ruin article at will - but not to annihilate my brain at whim?
Another angle of philosophical attack is to say that we rarely hold rights to nature or to life. We can copyright a photograph we take of a forest - but not forest. To reduce it to absurd: we can own a sunset captured on film - but never phenomenon thus documented. The brain is natural and life's pivot - could this be why we cannot fully own it?
Wrong premises inevitably lead to wrong conclusions. We often own natural objects and manifestations, including those related to human life directly. We even issue patents for sequences of human DNA. And people do own forests and rivers and specific views of sunsets.