As my mother would say, “What in heaven’s name has gotten into people?”
I’m talking about the consumer-zilla that is rapidly devouring (what was left) of the holiday season. It all started with Black Friday, an odd term to be sure. Sounds more Grinch than ho-ho-ho. Next came Cyber Monday, created by the virtual Abominables called Amazon and Ebay.
This year, we got hit with a two-fer: Small Business Saturday joined in the fun (sponsored by that oh-so-generous small business named, ahem, American Express). Moving the clock back even earlier, Wal-Mart, Sears and K-Mart decreed that it is more important to be thankful for your job than your grandma and made hundreds of thousands of workers put down the turkey bird early on Thanksgiving so they could unlock the gates for the zombie-eyed masses called “early birds.”
Thankfully, I hear that the big stores did amend their dress codes. For Thanksgiving Day only, workers were allowed to leave their belts unbuckled and their top buttons unfastened. I say “thankfully” because how can you possibly feed capitalistic gluttony without first digesting your own? Plus, who wants to be taken out by a projectile button flying off the 34-inch khakis of a worker who just completed a 48-inch meal? Surely, there are better ways to die.
Now, before I lived in New Orleans, the greed that ate Christmas would have spurred me into an endless rant (and if you think the above is a “rant”, why, you just don’t know me). But, living in New Orleans has made me mellower. It has made me shrug off the craziness that surrounds our crazy city. And it has made me focus on alternative, truer ways to live and to be. It also has made me more of a rebel than ever before (and that’s saying quite a bit).
So, now that I do live in New Orleans, I look at the shopping frenzy and just chuckle. I look at my amazing group of friends around here who would never, ever leave a meal early—much less go anywhere early—and I give true thanks. Free thanks.
And I offer an alternative to it all. A mellow way to give a rebellious finger to the corporate bigwigs who have orchestrated this whole nightmare before Christmas the same way they’ve created the ridiculous notion of a “fiscal cliff.”
Here it is: Rather than think of a shopping list of material wants, how about a soul list of immaterial needs?
Instead of a gift card that took you all of three seconds to buy, how about making your best friend a 10-punch “shoulder to cry on,” redeemable whenever he needs it, regardless of whether it’s convenient to you or not. Instead of giving your elderly mom a new TV so she can keep on sittin’ at home, how about offering her a monthly dinner, just the two of you?
This doesn’t necessarily have to be either/or, by the way. It’s all about the intent. For example, you probably don’t want to deny your little girl that tricycle she’s ready to ride (unless you want a really big therapy bill down the road). But how about, in addition to the cycle, Santa leaves her a note extolling the importance of freedom in our lives … and the responsibility it carries?
When you shop local, as we talked about a few weeks ago, do so in a both/and way. Buy your neighbor an awesome mirror on Magazine Street, but tell her it’s a “Damn, I’m good” mirror and is to only be used after some triumph in her life: a work success, a new love…or just a really good batch of Bloody Marys! Then, watch how, over the year, she sees more and more triumphs.
It’s not hard, this making of your soul list (and checking it twice). But, for heaven’s sake, before you get started, please … please … buckle your pants back up!
Ho, ho, ho … and happy soul-days!
Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love: NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his site at ashamansjourney.net.