Today's Paper Obits Crime Today's Photos Prep Sports Street conditions available online Home Style DOUG THOMPSON: What took so long? Puzzles
story.lead_photo.caption Everything turned out all right in the end for George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, thanks to his angel Clarence, and especially George’s wife Mary.

Christmas Eve was a good time with good food and good drink and good people and loyal pups and a decent Apple Music Christmas playlist and a whiskey-warmed midnight meditation on the aluminum tree and color wheel of my boyhood.

Normally, I might be so kind as to inform you how far and where I drove to get that dessert--that coconut pie of the magical confluence of flaky crust and just-sweet-enough filling and mountainous coconut-bronzed meringue.

But then you might order one or two and drive over next Thanksgiving or Christmas. And then whoever is baking those pies might get inundated and be forced to impose a cap or even quit.

Then where would we be?

I'm kidding, of course. I'm here to serve. It's the Bulldog restaurant in Bald Knob, an easily worthwhile hour's drive from Little Rock.

So, there was a moment in early evening on Christmas Eve when I reclined in the Morris chair, absorbed the decorations and people and pups and experienced a rush of warmth and rare serenity.

It was like Barack Obama was president again, except that the presidency--indeed, politics--was the furthest thing from my mind.

Apparently, there can be a certain grouchiness in my everyday manner. Or so I am told.

Typically, I tend to start thinking about the next project midway through the current one, which can create a state of what might appear to others as agitation and express itself in unintended ... abruptness, shall we say.

But I do believe that, on or about 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, I briefly lapsed into what they call the moment. And I never fully left it until the next morning when certain persons were taking entirely too long to tear into their gifts.

Come on--rip that paper wide open. Here--I'll show you. I'll buy more paper or gift bags next year. We can't spend all day opening all this ... this ... stuff.

The next thing you knew I was remembering who the preposterous second-place president was and what his hair looks like.

Amid the other fleeting transcendences of Christmas Eve, we watched It's a Wonderful Life, which some of my pals dismiss as hokum but which I always have found positively profound.

The point of the story is the very essence, as I assess it, of religion, whatever your variety. It is to live in a way that the direct and domino effects of your influences are positive, even transformative, for people and events.

That means, conversely, that, by a life wrongly lived, things would be poorer for one's home or street or community by one's presence.

And there is the other variation: What might it be like at our home, or on our street, or in our town, even across the world, if we'd not lived?

None of us gets an angel like Clarence to show us what would have happened without us. We can merely aim abstractly and high.

The other point of the film is that, typically, even a good man is lesser than, or at least less without, a good woman.

Jimmy Stewart portrays a stellar man. But, confronted daily by the pressures of life, he breaks down and verbally abuses his lovable uncle and frightens the children and wanders the street contemplating suicide and needing an angel to give him perspective and save him.

Meantime, we learn, Donna Reed is his real savior back in the real world, comforting the kids and finding out what's wrong with her husband and going out and doing something about it.

By the time Jimmy gets back from his angel madness, Donna has assembled friends and loved ones from far and near to ante up to save the building-and-loan.

She'd been the one to open his eyes to the loving partnership right in front of him.

She'd been the one to offer him the honeymoon fund to calm a run on the building-and-loan. She'd been the one to recreate a honeymoon getaway at home because the run on the building-and-loan had, as usual, kept them home.

An angel with wings can be nice, but it's less valuable than a good woman with her feet on the ground.

P.S.--This is an expanded version of some of these thoughts as expressed on social media, after which a former schoolteacher of mine commented that I was a good man to write such things.

I replied with a truth as profound and potentially instructive as It's a Wonderful Life. It's that it's easy to be the hero of your own narrative. The challenge and real meaning would come in measuring up to yourself in your narrative.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 12/28/2017

Print Headline: Fleeting transcendence

Sponsor Content