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Posted November 28, 2016:

Something Missing

We spent the Thanksgiving weekend at Whistler in British Columbia with our son, Nick, and his family. A fun time in a winter wonderland.

It was our first trip to the Whistler/ Blackcomb ski area and village. It is well-organized to handle a lot of people. A zillion runs for skiing and snowboarding. I skied one day, doing more steeply vertical slopes than my usual, but a good challenge. I don’t ski for speed. I ski for the feeling, which doesn’t happen all that often, of being graceful. That and the scenery.

The idea of Whistler is that of the European ski village, with the village is right at the base of the mountain.

It snowed a lot during our four days, so that by Saturday (we arrived Wednesday evening) people were able to ski the footpaths and trails from their hotels to the lifts. And there is a great system of free shuttle buses for getting around. No need to drive your car, which is great.

The Whistler “Village Walk” winds through the cluster of hotels, vacation rentals, stores, bars and restaurants. And of course at this time of year, it is all festooned with holiday lights. Or are they called “winter” lights?

Only one thing is missing in this picture-perfect alpine village, with snow flakes gently falling. There’s no church. Not that you expect one, as the village is really an artificial construct and not a real or historical human community.

Still, with the “holidays” upon us, the bright lights, the shopping (“Black Friday discount on Botox treatments!”) it seemed to me an absence — no sign at all of a transcendent dimension.

Certainly avid boarders and skiers might point to the mountains themselves and the experience of racing down them (“awesome”) as a sign of transcendence. Maybe they are right.

Still, a snowy village at the Christmas holidays without a church, without some hint of the sacred, of the Christian story, was to me a bit eerie. Is this the society we are becoming? Well-organized, convenient, expensive, multi-cultural, even beautiful, but with no holy story, no mystery, nothing sacred?

It’s not a matter of hammering a slogan like “put Christ back in Christmas.” And to my mind it’s preferable to be without Christmas carols as the muzak background for shopping.

Overall, it’s an absence that is barely noticed, if at all. Except we notice it in all the ways we try to fill the God-shaped space within each of us with other things, adrenaline, alcohol, drugs, shopping. Whether we have words for it, or not, something is missing.

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