Yes, Virginia, There Is an Internet

With apologies to Francis P. Church and Virginia O'Hanlon

Dear I am 8 years old. Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus. My dad says, "If you read it on the Net, it must be so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your friends are wrong. We live in a very strange time, in which very clever, but cynical people, claim there is no such thing as the truth -- and yet never miss a chance to tell young people what that truth is. They tell this same story over and over, in forms as different as songs and cartoons and video games, to you and your friends. Your friends have listened and accepted; to your credit, you have listened and questioned what you've heard.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. I know if you surf the Web you'll be linked to more Web pages and blogs that suggest that he is just a myth -- or worse, a joke -- than that he is real. Saddest of all are those sites that argue that Santa Claus is impossible, that reindeer can't fly or that no one could visit so many homes in a single night. These last stories are written by confused adults who don't believe in miracles and want to force children to think as they do. They call it "being realistic."

But, Virginia, how can anyone not believe in miracles? Look around you. There are miracles everywhere -- oddly enough, many of them created by the same people who tell you not to believe in them (grown-ups are funny that way). Think about this: It is very possible that the entire universe is made of invisible strings. These strings vibrate in such a way as to create galaxies and bluebirds, atoms and daffodils. … In other words, Virginia, the entire universe may be made out of music! Isn't that a miracle? And isn't it a miracle, too, that human beings -- tiny creatures on a tiny planet in a corner of the Milky Way -- could even imagine such a thing?

Oh, Virginia, there are so many miracles. Think of that computer chip in your Wii or iPhone that goes through as many thoughts in a second as you will have heartbeats in your entire life. Or of those thousands of people in the world now who carry around transplanted hearts and livers and lungs. Or those amazing Rovers that explored the surface of Mars. Even that flu shot you just got. These are miracles, Virginia, every one of them.

Quarks Are Invisible, Too

But there are other miracles, too, Virginia, much closer to home. Every day, when you walk down the street or through the mall you meet many people who carry with them enormous burdens -- some have terrible pasts, some are sick or frightened, others have cares and responsibilities they can hardly bear, some are even dying. Yet you would never know by looking at them. Some of them may even live in your own house. Each morning, they get up, put on a smile and go out into the world and try to make it a better place. They are very, very brave people -- and what they do each day is no less a miracle than the birth of stars.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in e-mail, or electrons, or black holes. Nobody sees Santa Claus but that doesn't mean there is no Santa Claus. No one has seen a quark either, or a computer bit, but that's no proof they aren't there. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor adults can see. Great new discoveries and wonderful acts of human kindness are made every day. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen or unseeable in this world.

If, in this age of science and technology, we have learned anything, it is that there is a veil covering the invisible world that not even the most powerful computer or space probe or microscope can penetrate. Only faith, hope, art and love can push aside this curtain and let us see the beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Oh, Virginia, there is nothing more real.

No Santa Claus? Of course there is. He has been with us now for a thousand years. As long as little boys and girls like you believe in miracles, Santa Claus will gladden the heart of childhood. And he will live forever.