There is light hereabouts, even at Christmas | AspenTimes.com

There is light hereabouts, even at Christmas

John Colson

Scanning the recent headlines of our valley’s newspapers, I see it all clearly ” the cultural and social schizophrenia that has seized our collective consciousness tightly, like the gnarled fist of a Norse god gripping the horn of a charging mythical beast about to thrust the god into oblivion.

I’m not sure where this is coming from, or where it might be leading, but bear with me for a moment.

Perhaps it’s the images of the galloping Christmas season, with its saccharine commercialism and glittering temptations, standing in stark contrast to those comparatively few shining examples of the season’s true spirit.

As I said, I’m not sure, could use a little help here.

On the one hand, we, the working class of the region, are an angry mob traveling a ribbon of blacktop every morning, seething against the fates that force us into this sluggish stream of steel and rubber, or perhaps inwardly reviling the bosses who await us at the end of our long commute.

But on the other hand, we are a determined, if not bullheadedly stubborn, crowd of hardy survivors, some for longer terms than others, but all dedicated to the proposition that we’ve found a kind of Shangri-La and we’re gonna hang on and both absorb and dispense whatever joy and pleasure we can as we careen toward an unknown end.

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On the darker side of this divide, we have the specter of Aspen, a badly wounded resort town struggling to keep its head above the roiling riptide of money and greed that threatens to pull it under one last time. The slopes are emptier, the stores are ritzier, and the housing more expensive and less available to the working masses every year.

And now we’re getting the flotsam and jetsam from urban Amerika, pushing upstream toward Aspen like trout to a spawning ground that no longer exists.

Take those two hapless mugs who were arrested on the streets of Aspen this week, after one of them reportedly accosted a store employee with a knife in a misguided effort to score some weed.

What would possess some denizen of the shallow end of the gene pool to think he could wander in here, act like that, and get away with it? Could it be the image of Aspen as a depraved playground for the rich, as some place where easy pickings hang on every tree just waiting to be plucked?

Could be, but that’s the dark side. There is some light here.

By the time most readers are subjected to this column, the 30th annual performance of Handel’s “Messiah” will be history, and conductor Ray Adams will have once again pulled off his six-week miracle of whipping into harmonious shape a ragtag assembly of voices from every burg in the valley.

As my spousal unit pointed out, these are strong folks, mostly working stiffs who put in long days at what they do and then haul their tired asses to rehearsals and then to performances from early November to mid-December every year.

As Adams is fond of mentioning to audiences that this is what the term “community” is all about. It’s dozens of disparate soldiers in the battle for the good life, getting together to raise their voices in celebration of whatever or whomever it is that drives them to this task. And it’s all for the sole reward of having done it well for another year, and having entertained their fellow troops for just a night or two.

That’s just one example of the light that illuminates our path around here. Other examples abound ” a kidney donated to a childhood friend, parties to raise money to help the stricken ward off the bill collectors, mentors lending their experience and compassion to youngsters with a gap in their lives. The list is long.

And it’s a good list to gaze upon every now and then, just when your own rising river of despair seems to reach flood stage and threaten to wash you away, and you need a hint that you’re not alone, and that even the most raging flood will ultimately subside.

It’s a boost that even we curmudgeons need every now and then, an admission that doesn’t come easy to some of us.

Merry Christmas.

jcolson@aspentimes.com