Tim O'Rahilly Life Coaching

Archive for December 2011

Keeping The Magic Alive

During my long career as a primary school teacher, there were many occasions when high levels of tact and diplomacy were required. This was ever so when dealing with those age groups where the children were starting to question the reality of Santa Claus. There was always the awareness that some knew to their core that he was real, while others had lost the magic and their truth was founded in logic. Of course in between were the doubters who could not quite bring themselves to let go – just in case!

Parents would ask how to deal with the difficult questions, often feeling that honesty should prevail. Like a true Coach I would return the questions, “What do you think?”, “How would you feel if……” etc. Of course the perennial concern was the problem of not wanting to lie to the children. Everyone is convinced that at some point in the future they will be faced with an angry teenager declaring that “Because you lied to me about Santa, you lie about everything!” Ask anyone who has had teenagers. That will be the least of your worries! On the other hand can anything really out do waking up on Christmas morning to wide-eyed children gleefully shouting “Santa’s been!”

Modern life is chipping away at childhood and its magic in so many ways.  I say,  perpetuate the magic as long as possible! I firmly believe that as adults we need to experience moments of awe and wonder whenever we can. How will we learn to do this if, as children, we have not experienced magic in our lives? The Santa Claus period should be seen as an important positive element in our education and development as well rounded human beings. Keep the magic alive for as long as possible. All too soon your lanky, skinny-jeaned offspring will be replacing the letter to Santa with a list of vouchers required, while calmly announcing that they are spending Christmas with the boyfriend’s family!

Back in 1897 one little girl expressed her worries and this lead to one of the most famous editorial responses ever from a newspaper. Her original letter to the editor read as follows:

Dear Editor

I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says: If you see it in the paper it’s so.

Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

115 West 95th Street

Virginia sent this to Francis P. Church, the editor of a New York city newspaper, The Sun. On 21st September He published the following thoughtful and passionate response:

“We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication above, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The New York Sun:

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

All minds Virginia, whether they are men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! How dreary would be the world be if there was no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. Not believe in Santa Claus!

You might as well not believe in fairies!

You might get your Papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus.

The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn?

Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there.

Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world. You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart.

Only faith, fancy, poetry love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real?

Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives, and he lives forever.

A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

Let’s perpetuate the Magic and as adults let’s remember the joy of it.

Now, does anyone have an email address for the Tooth Fairy?

A Most Remarkable Concert

This blog post is something of an indulgence to the musical geek in me. Today marks the 203rd Anniversary of a concert given by Ludwig Van Beethoven, the nature of which has fascinated me for over 30 years.

While a student teacher in 1975 I heard Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy for the first time and fell in love with it. Knowing nothing about the piece, but recognising a strong hint of the great 9th Symphony, I quickly wrote a note to my good friend Leslie Howard in London. Yes, dear reader, I am so old that I can remember writing letters, on paper, requesting information from a learned human being! Leslie is a world class Concert pianist and musicologist, and so by return I got information not only about the piece itself but about the remarkable context of its first performance.

Beethoven hired the Theater an der Wien in Vienna for a mammoth concert given on 22nd December 1808. The event lasted over four hours, consisted entirely of Beethoven Premieres and was directed by the composer himself. Conditions left much to be desired and since the heating had broken down the audience and performers were extremely cold. Despite this, and the fact that the orchestra were seriously under-rehearsed, the audience were treated to the first performances of the 5th & 6th Symphonies. Beethoven took to the keyboard for the premiere of his 4th piano concerto and there were first hearings of the aria ‘Ah, perfido!’ and two movements from the Mass in C. The composer then gave a sample of what the public most admired, which was his amazing ability at solo piano improvisation. Let’s not forget that Beethoven was of course profoundly deaf by this time.

As if all this were not enough, to end the evening he pulled together all the forces present, to perform what was described as a “Fantasia for the pianoforte which ends with the gradual entrance of the entire orchestra and the introduction of choruses as a finale”. The cold and exhausted audience had one more hurdle to overcome. One of the performers made a mistake which caused Beethoven to halt the performance and restart the whole thing!

Despite the difficulties it must have been a remarkable evening and I still long to hear a live performance of that one little-performed piece. The notion of giving a vocal finale to an instrumental work, casting it as a set of variations, the smooth and relaxed character of the tune itself, these are all ideas to which Beethoven would grandly return fifteen years later in his awesome 9th symphony.