Episode 47 – “Night of the Meek”

“Night of the Meek” is a Christian morality tale, a Christmas miracle story. It is about sympathy and support for the meek: the poor, the young, the old, the homeless and the impaired. We see the meek in these forms, contrasted with the non-meek – the wealthy department store patrons dragging their privileged children – one is named “Percival Smithers” – to tell Santa what they fully expect to get for Christmas.

This episode contains two explicit references to philosophy. The first occurs early in the episode, when Corwin (played by Art Carney), a poor, aging, alcoholic, takes a break from his temporary gig as a department store Santa during the Christmas season,  and downs shots of whiskey at a local bar. As he drinks in his Santa garb, two kids notice him from outside, pressing their noses to the windows, waving wildly to get his attention. Corwin asks the bartender:”Why do you suppose there really isn’t a Santa Claus? Why isn’t there a real Santa Claus, for kids like that?” The bartender responds: “What am I supposed to be, some kind of philosopher?”

The second comes when Corwin is sacked after returning drunk from his break from  his Santa gig. In response to his employer’s outrage, Corwin is at first contrite, but then points out that Christmas is not about how well others meet our performance expectations, but rather about how we understand, sympathize with, and respond to the plight of others – of the meek. Someone should tell the outraged mother of Percival Smithers that Christmas is about “patience, love, charity, compassion.” Corwin’s boss dismisses this with sarcasm: “How philosophical, Mr. Corwin!”

Corwin is hip to the fact that something is seriously wrong with Christmas. Santa doesn’t exist. Instead  there are only fake Santas, hired drunks like Corwin himself,  unable to meet the needs and hopes of those most in need.  Corwin’s eloquent observations are dismissed, derisively classified as “philosophy.”

In the Twilight Zone, that is, in the imagination, things can go differently. We get to imagine that Corwin acquires the resources to begin to fulfill the needs and reduce the suffering of the children and the elderly in the dark, inner city streets of this American city on Christmas eve. The hope rests in the fat that what we can imagine is possible.

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