New Year promises are what we make and break. At the stroke of midnight when the final hour tolls the end of the old year and welcomes the new, our yearlong resolutions come into effect, which means it is time to start breaking promises we made to ourselves … a time to lie. To tell a white lie for survival is a spike of wisdom. To tell a black lie to fool and to destroy is guaranteed a Devil’s reward.
edwin a. sumcad
Prologue: This is a tribute to
San Diego’s homeless whose plight has called the attention of authorities and disquieted the concerned community to no end.
June last year, there are more than 9,600 homeless in
County according to the report of the San Diego Task Force on Homelessness. It is tragic to label them as socially apathetic, indolent and lazy who created their own situation and burden others for their care and survival, when the sad truth is that they are “… facing many adversities that make it difficult for them to change their situations without intervention.”
Society generally shuns the growing number of the community’s homeless without understanding the cause/s of their predicament, especially the human side of their story. It is even more foolish if not cruel for those who think that to be homeless is intentional on the part of the unfortunate. This kind of attitudinal morbidity makes the problem of homelessness more difficult to address.
Chronic homelessness is more often than not associated with bipolar disorder [schizophrenia] and without health care, a result of drug abuse. It is more poignant if not quite painfully distressing to know that about 22% of
San Diego’s homeless are veterans who had served the country in its dire hour of need, and now wandering the street looking for a home to survive the pang of winter. For them the war had changed. Their last battle is in the cold of the night, and the enemy to vanquish, desolation.
Forewarned is forearmed. What readers are about to read is abstract reality. Purposely created with abundant use of metaphor, symbolism and euphemism, this editorial narrative is a literary art rich in imagery – my signature in all the literary works I have created and published. Its literary mission is to make the impact of the profound meaning of narrative imagery even more acute and discerning of dimensional reality, both in the heart and mind of the reader.
It’s like fingering poetry in prose where art is conceptually or emotionally arbitrary. For example, literary artists can make the ugly beautiful and vice versa depending on the prevailing mood. It is said that great artists have no duty to reality, only to virtual reality through which they portray reality. In short, at the most, it is only all what the artist sees, which to others does not necessarily mean it is, hence totally abstract. Actual reality is dull to the mind, stoically unchallenging – abstract reality is profound … perceptively engaging to the intellect.
Art for art sake” is what attracts the nymphs of most artists, like night moths are to the lamp. That’s where my rebellion lies. I have always maintained that in
Art, the artist’s duty is not to self or to art but to society.
This principle guides me when I do short story, novelette or literary artworks, film and book reviews. These are archived in national libraries. All my literary works including those published critiques supposedly anchored on this perception of art that I have just described, are hardly based on art for art sake, but rather on the many meaningful hues of life and life’s sake, in art.
The story of the homeless you are about to read is a stirring example of a creative philosophy in literary art that I adhere to since my academic days in literature, philosophy and letters were put to practice outside the campus.
With this little background on how this author perceived literary art, the readers should not be caught by surprise when introduced to what they are about to read.
The life of the homeless not only in
California but also elsewhere is to say the least, sad. Pathos captures literary minds in agony.
We celebrate this cold Yuletide season with a heavy heart even as I ask for their sake, where is home for Christmas. It is to them that I dedicate this editorial insight in the form of a narrative literary essay.
Where is home for Christmas? It could be where the fireplace is, where the
X’mas tree stands tall with a rainbow of blinking lights that glow in the eyes of the young and the merry.
Where else can Christmas be but in a shelter of warmth, amidst the freezing castle of snow and of frozen snowman outside where the off-and-on bone-searing blizzard raps the windowpane as snowflakes and tiny cotton balls brighten the sky with sparks of immaculate fire settling on top of the trees before they fall to the ground like droplets of melting crystals, or inside, under an old fiddler’s roof, in a traditional room of lullabies that soothe children to sleep, with mystery woolen socks in dappled colors and multihued velvet stockings against the wall for Santa Claus to drop in a surprise gift at midnight while the children are fast asleep.
How about those who do not have a fireplace, a
X’mas tree, a shelter of warmth, a room of lullabies to sleep with, while in a freezing night waiting for the break of dawn somewhere in some inhospitable rat-infested dark alleys of a town whose heart is as cold as the chill of winter? Praying for the first light of day to come soon, with a glimmer of hope that the next day would bring some kind of a surprise Christmas present, perhaps from an early pedestrian who would flip over a coin to add up to yesterday’s take, for a nice warm cup of McDonald coffee at a nearby corner to start the day with a breath of fresh air and a smile –not to open the day with that aging, gravely parched puckered brow for a change — and in a brief moment of silence shouting a million thanks to the good Samaritan … to the Good Lord, if you may? My thoughts wondered as I wrestled with my inner self with a disquieted calm, trying to figure out if man is in fact his own inhumanity.
I am of course referring to the homeless’ travails as if out of this world whose home is in the streets, somewhere in a cold December night.
We can easily identify a homeless roaming the street when we see one. I was sure of what I saw some years back in the parking lot of a mall in the middle of a shopping center. He could be somewhere between 50-60 years young, shabby, scruffy, thin, haggard-looking and shaveless, and his dirty tattered blue boater authenticated his appearance to me as a genuine hobo.
I thought then maybe he had once fought in
Vietnam and beat the hell out of the charging “congs” for the gods in
D.C. and for freedom somewhere in no-man’s land. Maybe he had a wife or wives that had died or had left him long time ago. Maybe he was not alone but with spirits that exist in the dimensional world we cannot see. Maybe he had children too that together he had once spent Christmas with, that he had left behind somewhere and forgotten, or children who in good life for some reasons, no longer know him, never heard of him, or had forgotten him completely.
With a bulky load on his back that looked like a bundled blanket or tacked coverlet, maybe a thick layer on the ground from some boot camps in the woods, and a tin cup and a small frying pan tied to a string that dangled from his waist, he looked like a tired, bent old mountaineer that just scaled down Mount Kilimanjaro. Or could he be literature’s Hunchback of Notre Dame in real life? Or in real life did the character in the novel look like him not in a flashing fantasy described, but in real flesh? My mind raced back to Victorian literature and wondered if the great writer
Quasimodo — the ugly hunchback bell-ringer who in complete isolation found a home at the bell tower of the great cathedral of Notre Dame — had ever lived in a parking lot.
The evening sun had faded away, and in the darkening shadow of a tired old day, the shadowy stranger seemed to have tiptoed his way to the empty parking lot like a thief in the night. The phantom of the opera came to mind — shifty and agile, suspicious — as he lingered momentarily near the spot where I was about to park my car, then moved swiftly towards his quarry as if his bootless feet off the ground were that of a ghost that floats in the air, a haze of mist that rides at the back of a winged icy monsoon wind.
All of a sudden, I saw him almost wrestling with the mall attendant over a rusty, junk-like pushcart that could have been kicked over the garbage corner nearby by an irate shopper because the contraption has outlived its usefulness. That was where the hobo claimed he found it. He was arguing with the mall attendant that the pushcart belonged to the one who found it first.
Finder’s keeper …!! he snapped, and I heard his quivering voice like a clap of thunder in a distance, as if a lion had just growled shaking the jungle of his domain as he bared the fangs of his soul to a rival who was threatening to take away his mate. Take away even a piece of that pushcart, and every piece is taken out of him so it seemed … and so I thought what a way to die with your boots on.
The grocery attendant wanted to retrieve the mall property somewhat half-heartedly, from the hobo’s grip, but this ragged night wanderer was defending his hold of the pushcart with his life, as if it was the only Christmas gift that dropped from heaven he could ever have, which nobody should be mean enough to grab away from him without a fight.
In short, the mall worker gave up and the poor man finally got his junk. Where upon he unpacked his backload, and with a sigh of relief, gathered his scraps and put them all in the pushcart, then faded away into the night.
As I watched with abated breath the unfolding of this incident right before my eyes, I could only imagine how much that rolling cart meant to the homeless who with a heavy load on his back had yet to walk the streets to find a corner to pass away the icy night.
What surprised me was that the mall attendant who lost the struggle did not look like he was distraught after losing the pushcart. I did not see an angry or worried face at all. Instead, I saw a smile in the young man’s face as he turned his head up to the sky as if he had just done an offering to God on his way back to the mall. Was it the greatest X’mas gift the mall attendant had ever given away to the needy, similar to the gift of life Christ had given away to mankind – his own life on the Cross in Mt. Calvary – in that greatest story ever told? Once more I wondered momentarily, spiritually aghast in the blare of stunning silence, as if my consciousness had wandered into a snowy and ghostly empty space.
I thought that this shop employee must have been thinking what I have had in mind at that precise moment – about what that old battered pushcart could do to the homeless who on foot had to travel a long unfriendly night to find a corner somewhere … a long way to survive perhaps one of the coldest winters of his life.
My thoughts left the divine world of the sublime and veered towards the realm of poetic justice. My legalese mind, trained in legal niceties over the conflicts of property rights in my long years of practice of law, zeroed in on the plight of the mall attendant. He could face dismissal let alone a civil liability, for not protecting his employer’s property. Since he willfully let the property to be taken away in the manner described, he could be held liable for the loss of that property. Assuming of course that the item in question was not thrown away into where the garbage disposal was, for the trash man to collect.
But if the kind-hearted attendant would have lost his job, he would have given one of the greatest Christmas gifts of all time to one who really needed it badly. That poor homeless hobo found a home in the attendant’s heart.
Christmas is where your heart is. If you care, even the homeless have their own Christmas – in your heart where it should really be. Probably the City that seems to have a dead heart needs a heart transplant, one that is larger than the ordinary to be able to accommodate the ever increasing number of homeless who need a home.
Next to that is nothing but artificial stars, the glitters of Christmas lights and paperballs, with the traditional
X’mas carols to boot.
Aside from merrymaking and heart warming in winter, Christmas also ushers in the New Year.
I have always marveled since I was young if anyone’s New Year is really new. Since then I have come to think that the year is never new. Only New Year promises are new, which start from midnight of New Year’s eve, onward to the next New Year, and so forth and so on until one is as old as Santa Claus that no longer age. You become a myth yourself, to your children, to your love ones, to yourself and to the community. In many ways, you become Santa Claus without that long, overflowing, trashy white beard … just a gift-bearing Santa Claus in real life that with such boundless love and burning compassion, even your generous yearly donations to the community warm the heart of many.
If you happen to know that your New Year promises are not even new – apparently a case of recycled New Year resolutions – maybe you need some good pointers to go by along the way.
I am talking of New Year resolutions which we promise ourselves to do or not to do the whole year round. The problem with this is that we promise according to our hope, but we do according to what we need. The divergence between hope and need is what put us into trouble.
This trouble makes us dishonest of our promises. We end the old year with so much broken promises. And start the new one with fresh promises which we intend to break before the New Year ends.
We break our promises by lying. A black lie is what we should avoid. It connotes evil, hence black.
Two of these examples are black lies. One of these two black lies is a multi-black lie:
 To a few disgruntled leftwing activists peddling their hate-wares in the street and in the Web,
Bush had lied about the war in
 To the majority of Americans in the count of 10 to 4, the Democrats and their allies — leftwing terrorist sympathizers – have been lying about the war in Iraq since 9/11 and more after the defeat of liberal candidate Sen. John Kerrey in the 2004 presidential election, to focus the nation’s attention towards their campaign for a liberal president in 2008.
 In the explosion of Internet commercials, dirt and underground publications, we have read a lot about the anti-war madness of both the conservative warmongers and the liberal left with the latter’s subversive call to arms; you have heard and read about the black lie of political wannabes in Congress and the parliament of the street that to withdraw our troops and surrender Iraq to terror in an ignominious defeat, is all right, that to protect the right of captured terrorists that had killed and to kill more innocent Americans in the name of freedom used as a shield by the enemy within, is all right.
Now decide which lies are as black as
Iraq’s scorpion night. Par  is a lie. Par  is not. Par  is a multiple black lie.
I do not need to explain how bad a black lie is to our nationhood, national security and survival. In Christmas time, I am more interested on white lies of wisdom.
How controversial a white lie could get is judgmental. Suppose we have this hypothetical proposition: If an assassin is holding a gun pointed at you and you lie where to find your friend that the killer intends to murder, it could be worth breaking your New Year resolution not to lie. Just break your New Year resolution … tell the assassin a white lie to save your friend’s life.
Think of that friend as your Dad or Mom or any of your love ones. Under this situation, to be truthful would demonstrate a total lack of wisdom.
If we can think and act like King Solomon in the Bible when we break our New Year resolutions so that we can be as wise as he is, then that’s a good start to become an apostle with a mission in life to spread the gospel of wisdom.
With wisdom instead of wistful thinking and inanity, we are assured of many more good, fruitful and secured years to come … good for you, fantastic to everyone, and extraordinarily exemplary to the nation that is sadly divided by the folly of the unwise.
For now, I wish you all a Merry
X’mas & a Happy New Year!
Edwin A. Sumcad. NWS access
December 13, 2007.
The writer is a veteran diplomat-journalist for more than 45 years and a recipient of excellence awards in journalism. He is author of novelettes, short stories and literary essays. He is a former Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations; he is also an economist, a lawyer and an Association of Southeast Asian Nations specialist on fiscal policy and regional industrial cooperation. His human interest writings and editorial insights appear in other publications and published in several websites. A brief comment may be e-mailed to email@example.com.