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Well the holidays are coming up and that may or may not be a good thing in your book. Whether it is the distraction from the normal routine or the hanging out with people we feel we are forced to. From the trappings of our jobs to the trappings of our consumeristic world.
I wanted to pose some questions to us all. Why do we feel such a strong impulse to pay (usually more than we can truly afford) on gifts for the holiday season? What insane impulse have we that sends us to the malls in ever increasing numbers to spiral our personal finance out of control? At what point in time did humans equate money with love, trust, togetherness, and the religious nature of the holiday season?
If we look at the nativity story, a desperately poor family moving the about-ready-to-give-birth wife on the back of a donkey, so romantically sealed in our Western conception of heaven, hell, god, debacle, truth and sacrifice. A pregnant woman about to give birth on the back of a donkey, picture some of the people at the mall as you shop and maybe you will come to your senses. I find it a little strange when I picture the fact that the new born was placed in an animal's food dish and no one says anything about it, there are no gasps from the congregation (most bedecked in their best clothes, solely for the purpose to impress at this, the birth our their divine being) there are no cries of anguish from the parishioners when it is revealed that Joseph didn't give baby Jesus the newest Playstaion (whatever number we are on now). In fact there is no mention of the fact that no gifts were exchanged between the holy family at all. Sure, sure, settle-down, I know, I remember. The gold, frankincense and myrrh. OK here is the paydirt, the big stuff. These are the Santa’s presents if you know what I mean. Is this why we feel we have to give gifts at all? Some rich eccentrics gave the baby Jesus expensive gifts and now we, 2000 years later, rack our minds with feelings of insecurity, uncertainty, inadequacy, the need to spend more money to prove we love someone. So we take these expensive gifts that a couple men could afford and try to duplicate their lofty prices with our expenditure. The monetary price value of our gifts is what concerns people most. How about giving our most precious gift of all, our time. Truly, time, is the one thing we can give that when it comes down to it, our loved ones really want and we probably don't get enough of.
This consumer avalanche is out of control in America as well as the West in general. But picture this if you remember, when, after 9/11, America had such a prime time to truly look into self, do some soul searching. To look at what specifically about the US do other people not like (not to change it for that reason but just as an exercise of self-analysis). But what should the president at the time say to what America needs to do. "Go shopping." What??? That is it. Just continue down the road of buying 99% of unneeded crap and keep doing it. Wow, that's easy enough! I felt truly angered at such a trite suggestion and even more angered when America excepted that as a good suggestion.
Anyhow...Here is a very cool Jacob Needleman interview about money and its place in the soul/essence of people today, quite excellent, The meaning of money in the 21st Century. Also there is a wonderful radio broadcast that I find most relevant due to the fact that it seems no one else discusses these concepts in such a wonderful way. Speaking of Faith on NPR. This particular episode "Money and Moral Balance", I listened to about a week before I wrote this post but it got me thinking some...
I mean, religion doesn't hold a higher than thou place in my heart but a definite place for sure, a place that I try to fill with more knowledge and more understanding. The figureheads of religions would have wanted it that way for sure, wouldn't they have. I do think that we lack most of the better elements of religions on a daily basis. If we truly turned the other cheek, where would we be? If we loved others as ourselves, wouldn't earth be better than it is? I may be what I have read that the author Par Lagerkvist had called himself, a religious atheist. I take that to mean he had no true belief in god but a certain and tangible respect for the various creeds and practices of people, that he saw what religions can do for people when used correctly for good, to build the human spirit and not do tear each other down and lay asunder. His stories have a very strong moral element to them.
Well, I want to wish you all happy holidays and remember that love is more meaningful than anything we can physically hold. Also, a special wish for peace and love to my friends that can't be with all the people they want to be this holiday season.
Stay true to yourself.