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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Seeking Sanity Saturday


Rage against the playing of the Christmas jingles.
Do not go gentle into that Department Store.
Rage, rage against the buying of the crap.

What's the matter with people? Here's a fun thought experiment. Take a walk through your house. Catalogue in your mind the possessions you see, and try to remember the approximate expense of those items. Keep a running total. Now imagine a lifetime of those purchases from cradle to grave. The average person will spend a thousand dollars this season for a pile of useless crap. When you think about total lifetime non-essential purchases, I'm not talking about food or rent or heat, I'm talking about cassette tapes, compact disks, DVDs, Blue Rays, Amazon, board games, bric-a-brac, and sundries, plastic picture frames, sunglasses, boats, fake ceramic fruit, and on and on. That's a lot of stuff! A great deal of that stuff will be given away at Christmas, and in return you'll be given a like amount of stuff that somebody else picked out for you.

Imagine the sound of a garbage truck dumping its load of broken crap in a landfill. That compacted mass of crap represents every pointless and ultimately worthless item of questionable utility, ornamentation, and entertainment you ever plunked down a paycheck for. So my friends, here's a little Christmas Zen for you: What is the sound of a million dollars worth of junk slowly turning into dust over a thousand years?

I hope you all had the chance to spend time with family and friends on Thursday and were properly thankful for what you have, where you are, and properly realize how truly lucky you are compared to the billions today and in the past who had so much less. If after proper reflection and gratitude you decided to camp out in front of a department store or rampage through a Best Buy or Wal-Mart then I'm sorry for you. You're an idiot and there's no hope for you. I hope your dearly bought possessions bring you joy, even though I know they won't. Maybe you think they were great deals and not dearly bought at all, but you've forgotten to factor in opportunity cost. You got some stuff and lost a little of your own humanity. You could have spent more time with family and friends but instead you went out to do battle in a war for whom the winner received only the chance to purchase more useless crap. Congratulations on your pyrrhic victory.

And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all that useless stuff and all those wasted hours shopping, between this day and that, for another day, just one more perfect day with your family? In the end, do you suppose you might regret all those wasted dollars and all those wasted hours rummaging feverishly through aisles full of useless crap? Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday we need a day of sanity. A day devoted to cobbling together the shreds of our own self-respect, a day spent wandering through our own homes taking stock of what we have and why we bought it, and finally a day spent scraping up the remaining broken shards of our own sanity.

Philosophers are famous for asking "Why Are We Here?" The day after Black Friday is a good day to ask When is Enough, Enough? How much more crap can you balance on overloaded shelves, stuff into packed closets, and cram into overflowing toy chests?

Now I know what you're thinking. After all this unhealthy railing against commercialism and greed, you're probably expecting me to offer up the typical high-minded holiday reminder about what Christmas is all about. Will it be donate to the needy? Reach out to the neglected? Invite a neighbor for dinner, like the horrible old lady who lets Cujo the Pomeranian crap under your azalea bushes every morning?

Nope. Don't do any of that stuff just because it's Christmas. If philanthropy is your kick, then why not pick some day in the middle of July? Seek out a couple of smelly vagrants and invite them inside for a few hours of central air-conditioning and a sandwich. Or hey, why not be generous in February? There's not much going on for the down-and-out in the month of amore. You could even ask a bum to be your valentine.

My advice this Christmas season is to engage in open rebellion against the status quo. Have fun this Christmas by doing the opposite of the herd. Go get a tan. Have steak and French-fries for Christmas dinner. Most important, turn off the Christmas music. That music—which is only played this time of year—has totally brainwashed you over the years, to the point where you might as well be a zombie with a Macy's Card. It's exactly like Pavlov ringing his bell and you salivating. Snap out of it!

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