On the Nabokov “Christmas” Story. In July. Again…

I have decided to offer my post based on the Vladimir Nabokov short story “Christmas” (which I have featured, now, three times since 2012 for various reasons) as an annual “Christmas in July” tradition. It epitomizes to me the ever-present hope in darkness, no matter what the cause, day, date, or time. Be refreshed and encouraged.    

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

The short storyChristmas” by Russian author Vladimir Nabokov is a little literary gem that for me addresses the temptation to despair when grief overshadows hope whether on a stark winter’s day or some unexpected “Christmas in July.” 

Constrained with grief over the death of his young son, Sleptsov, the main character in Vladimir Nabokov’s short story “Christmas,” considers suicide.The day after the child’s funeral, as the story goes, Sleptsov brings his son’s coffin, “weighed down, it seemed, with an entire lifetime,” to its resting place in the family vault near their summer home in the country. Finding no solace in being near the entombed body of the boy and bone-cold in the frigid Russian winterscape, Sleptsov treks back in the thinning light to the unoccupied summer manse and walks through rooms of shrouded furnishings and mute chandeliers, the flame from his kerosene lantern shadowing the walls with his solitary figure.

Arriving in the study, Sleptsov sets the lamp on the desk and opens a wooden box that holds the boy’s treasures: a butterfly net, a “biscuit tin with (a) pear-shaped cocoon,” a spreading board for mounting butterflies, and the boy’s notebook. As the father reads the son’s daily entries of the summer just past, hearing in them that beloved young voice now stilled, his grief crescendos. It is at this point he realizes what will end this “earthly life (that) lay before him, totally bared and comprehensible—and ghastly in its sadness, humiliatingly pointless, sterile, (and) devoid of miracles […]” It is at this point, Sleptsov decides to end his life. Just then he hears “a sudden snap—a thin sound like that of an overstretched rubber band breaking.”

The grieving father looks up and sees that the cocoon in the tin has “burst its tip, and a black, wrinkled creature the size of a mouse (is) crawling up the wall above the table.” Before his eyes, the Attacus moth that had lain dormant inside its “taut, leaf-and-silk envelope” slowly unfurls its great black and purple wings, emerging now because of a thin shard of warmth from the lantern’s light. The moth, rising finally under the power of those wings “(takes) a full breath under the impulse of tender, ravishing, almost human happiness”—as does Sleptsov, himself (Nabokov writes, between the remaining lines), who only moments before felt inextricably bound in his own kind of cocoon….

In this seemingly impossible scene—the metamorphosis of moth and of man in the dead of winter and of grief—hope transcends despair, a spirit bereft of comfort rekindles, and a miracle unfolds.

In Nabokov’s story, you might say that one in darkness sees a light, however fragile, even as those at the first Christmas saw a Light, emerging at just the right moment, a Light that overcame the darkness.  And, another writer reveals, a Light that is “the life of men” through Whom “all things were made” (John 1:3,4) including cocoons that release extraordinary creatures, hearts that can change of a sudden, and hope that revives grieving spirits. And once again, the glory of the Lord unfurls.

I pray you too will be rekindled today in the light and warmth of Christ’s love, for He promised to never leave nor forsake you no matter how bleak the landscape of home—or of heart.


Photo from public domain collection: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=2224&picture=oil-lamp


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On Those Who Help…Powerful Story

I was reminded  today of a story from the 1992 Olympic games that exemplifies the importance and the poignancy of people who come alongside and help us at just the right moments. Just wanted to share.

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Addendum to Part 7–On the State of Political Rage (Assassination Signaling)

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

A commenter on Part 7 expressed  the hope that the post goes viral. I realized that my response, with a few additional words, might offer added perspective on the current state of the rage that many now believe is either approaching– or is now at–the tipping point of evil. Consider: Continue reading

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On the State of Political Rage, Part 7: “Assassination Signaling”

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

It seems as if  “assassination signaling” has just ramped up to the next level of gore, this level actually deadly.

Assassination signaling is akin to “virtue signaling” only not for any sense of  the “conspicuous expression of moral values done primarily with the intent of enhancing standing within a social group” as in the virtue kind, but for the purpose of a hoped-for standing in the anti-Trump movement that wants the president and his administration gone, apparently now by murder, not just by voting him out–as is the hallmark of America’s  tradition of  a “peaceful transfer of power”. Continue reading

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On Searching the Treasures of the Antikythera Mechanism and the Biblical Anthology

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

As I have progressed in my biblical studies these past 4o years, more and more I have come to comprehend and appreciate the fact that in the 66 book anthology, encompassing literature, history, archaeology, physics, biology, astronomy, cosmology, theology–and more–known as God’s Word, is a lot like a seven level chess game. But on learning about the Antikythera mechanism *, a relatively recent discovery of an ancient Greek calculating machine regarded as the first analogue computer, I am switching metaphors. Continue reading

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Does Kathy Griffin’s Shock Pic Serve as a Warning?

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

Undoubtedly, more Americans are now awake to the level of desperation and cruelty some on the far Left are capable of because they despise the current president and his administration. How? Because of the hatred expressed in the viral photograph of  comedian Kathy Griffin holding a fake decapitated head of Donald Trump in all its gory “glory”. But she apparently over-estimated even her devotees with this “humor,” particularly some of her most visible and loyal fans. 

However, though she may have taken her fandom’s tolerance for her unfiltered brand of satire too much for granted, Griffin did manage to also attract–and offend–many outside of the rarified air of the celebrity elite which is bad for her, but good, I believe, for America.

After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, and her contribution to the current degraded state of the political debate leaves no doubt as to her message which is not a message most Americans, Left, Right, and Center, support. So bad choice for you, Kathy, but good reveal for anybody still bamboozled by the word-cons. Continue reading

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“Greater is He…Than” Warfare, Lawfare, Crisisfare, Propagandafare, Cyberfare…

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

Ever notice how when a major world war erupts it is never just on one front? The best examples are World War I  and World War II where literally dozens of nations sacrificed from hundreds to millions in the conflagrations.

Many would argue that we are in another world war, only this one is undeclared except by those who comprehend it, and this time the weapons include not only conventional boots on the ground but also Continue reading

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