This is the season when songs get stuck in my head. To my dismay, the song is painfully likely to be “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time,” or worse, “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” When, Oh blessed relief, that warbling soundtrack gives way to the cascades of Handel’s “Glory to God,” I feel like asserting the permissibility and rightness of ranking the better and the best.
Social norm or not, we don’t have to maintain with a foolish smile, “It’s all just a matter of taste.”
Says Tracy Lee Simmons, “…culture is unapologetically evaluative. It refers to lower and higher, better and best. A ‘cultural’ achievement elevates. It improves…Now, of course, this older idea is not quite safe, or at least not safely expressed, because it attributes higher qualities to some people and things and not to others…Here the anthropological invades a realm properly guided by the aesthetic, perverting both thought and sentiment. But some judgments cannot be made by a show of hands. The majority doesn't always rule. Nor in some matters—and here’s the rub—should it” (Climbing Parnassus, Introduction).
We can, and must, acknowledge some things as higher and better. Even if we secretly like “Santa Baby.” (Which we do not.) Or else it’s all going to get really insipid, really fast.