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28 December 2020

Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings," the child Zuzu Bailey tells her father in It's A Wonderful Life when she hears a bell tinkle on the Christmas tree.

Winged Angel. Nikon D200 with 43-86mm Nikkor at f5.6, 1/30 second and ISO 560. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw.

We've never seen an angel that doesn't have wings. For that matter, we've never seen one with wings either. The concept of angels and wings is something we've been puzzling over for a few days now.

That may have something to do with the eggnog we consumed on Christmas Day, remembering all the Christmas Days when the house was full of people and you couldn't complete a conversation without it being intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

This year, we were reduced to pondering the hierarchy of angels.

This year, we were reduced to pondering the hierarchy of angels.

We've lived a long and happy life without much worrying about this partly because our namesake is an archangel, putting him at the top of the hierarchy. Not that it's lonely up there, we imagine, with Gabriel the DJ.

But how is it, we wondered, looking into our cloudy mug, that other angels must earn their wings? Haven't they suffered enough just getting into the place?

Is it that transition? we wondered. From worrying about slipping unintentionally into eternal damnation to being put in the position of doing favors for the living?

At just what point in our life did we begin to prefer giving to receiving?

It's an occupational hazard, we thought.

If you spend your day creating things you are inevitably giving. By definition, as we used to say in philosophy class.

And it grows on you. When you aren't busy creating something, you tend to do nice things for people. Not for the good feeling it gives you but for the good feeling it gives them.

You can tell. They tinkle like bells. And like the little winged angel we hang on our tree every year, you feel yourself lifting a little off the ground.

As if you had wings.

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