Advent, the start of the Church year, the period of early December to Christmas is my refuge, much enjoyed by other churchgoers, from Christmas commercialisation. Now we see a new trend for non-religious Advent Calendars. These are filled not with scenes of wisemen, stars, farm animals, donkeys but mini perfumes, make-up, dog treats and chocolates. Some of these cost in the region of £200. There are stacks of chocolate-filled ‘Advent calendars’ in my local supermarket, costing upwards of ten pounds for chocolate weighing barely more than a large bar: not a good bargain for the consumer. More waste paper, more sugar, more looting of Christianity, for profit. What has this got to do with the real St Nicholas of Smyrna?
Eric Fromm identified the core of modernity as the ‘syndrome of decay’ or ‘necrophilia’, the urge to destroy everything meaningful and to crush true life, to turn everything into mechanics without meaning. It is the mechanistic mindset of those unconsciously serving the anti-life force (usually but not always in the form of profit and greed) attempting to make everything the same as it is - and controllable.
Necrophilia is obsessed with destruction, death, dehumanising everything - in order to crush diverse, unique and fascinating life. Necrophilia seeks to transform the organic into the inorganic, to approach life mechanically, as if all people were ‘things’. So all living processes, feelings and thoughts are transformed into the material. What could more transform an idea into a thing than to turn a deep spiritual wonder into a little bite of chocolate, produced by the sweat of the brow of the workers of West Africa?
Perverting goodness, even the whole of Christmas for shareholders' profit, not caring whether it destroys the divine magic is necrophilic. We all know that eating sweets is bad for the body and probably kills you earlier, so what connection has this with the massively pro-life coming of the Light of the World in the ever amazing Incarnation? People, many already overweight, put on even more pounds at Christmas from over-indulgence. Now, that damaging process is starting three weeks early! Turning what is spiritual into what is bodily is integral to Fromm’s definition of ‘necrophilia’. The aim or necrophilia to kill us all - earlier than otherwise.
Its opposite is ‘biophilia’ : the love of life and the desire to support and promulgate it. What could be more biophilic than The Nativity Story? My advice is be a biophile this Advent and buy an advent calendar with Bible verses. Resist the star not of Bethlehem but death, by staying thin.
For more on necrophilia and biophilia, see Eric Fromm's book: