Gratitude and Greed
Yesterday, I arrived at my writing cafe at 6 a.m. I cherish the peace of this silent hour – when the world seems outlined with a purple pen, when the navy blue sky is still tinged with pink. Sometimes, arriving here, the beauty overwhelms me and I stop the car, inhaling and exhaling peace.
But yesterday, my usual parking spot was taken and half the lot was already filled. In the dark, lines of people, bundled into parkas and walking shoes, stood in lines that snaked up and down the sidewalk of the strip mall.
Ugh. I realized. It’s Black Friday.
This ‘holiday’ confounds me.
What is the allure of standing in line at the crack of dawn to buy things?
“They’ve been out there since 4 a.m.,” the cafe cashier told me. “Gap is offering 50% off everything in the store until like nine or something.”
I carried my tea to the table in the corner, plugged in my laptop and dove into the stack of manuscript pages before me. At 9:30, I looked up. The cafe manager ran inside, threw his coat into a back room and stepped up to the register. “How can I help you?”
My quiet cafe was mobbed with Black Friday bargain hunters. Sighing. I packed up my laptop and fled home.
I have no problem with shopping – and I’m a cheerleader for expansion. I know that human beings can’t help but grow.
But Black Friday isn’t about expansion – fiscal or otherwise. It’s about scarcity: the fear that there isn’t enough to go around.
- We fear we don’t have the cash to cover Christmas. So we better stock up while prices are slashed.
- We fear that the particular toy or iTool our kids crave will be sold out. So we better get there first.
And in a gesture so crass that it stinks, retailers slipped this mass celebration of ‘gimme’ into the calendar on the day after we sit down to offer gratitude for all we have, effectively co-opting the opening of the season of light into shadow: into longing, lack and emptiness. Retailers hope, we will try to fill that emptiness with STUFF.
From a spiritual perspective, scarcity is an illusion.
There’s enough for everyone – no need to grab. From an earthly (or, more accurately, a Western) perspective, scarcity seems to have become a way of life. It’s the end of the year, and I work hard, we grumble. I barely earn enough to pay my bills. I sacrifice for my kids, my parents, my boss. Now, dammit, I deserve some indulgence, some stuff.
It’s a recipe for disappointment
As the clock ticks down, retailers stir in urgency. Hurry up and grab one! This deal wont last forever. This special offer expires at 9 am. We know they’re doing it yet it gets us anyway. We absorb the rhythm through our pores: Pick up the pace, go go go. Hurry. Only 30 shopping days left til…
… til what? Til the greatest gift-fest of all; the great crescendo of Christmas, celebrated more ostentatiously each year. (Followed by the winter of out of control debt, garages filled with abandoned toys.
Been there, bought the game consoles, the electronic toys and later, the Ipod, iPod Touch, IPhone. Every year, bigger, newer, more…
We misunderstand expansion
We are meant to expand, to grow, to increase – as are all things in the Universe. But shopping is not what the Creator had in mind. Our unfolding, our expansion is meant to increase us toward wholeness, integration, toward peace.
We don’t ‘need’ a new car, new clothes, new laptop, new Uggs – to be happy. We ‘need’ a deepening of our experience of life, of love, of the light of illuminated consciousness that can only come when we stop trying to fill our emptiness and turn to face it.
When we go to the mall to feed our need, we miss the truth of who we really are: Spiritual beings standing at the leading edge of life itself. The infinitely expanding edge where anything is possible.
That’s why Black Friday leaves me asking: If anything is possible, why are we choosing this?
When we could create – and have – anything that we could ever imagine, why do we choose a world where the greatest satisfaction we can come up with is a bigger heap of manufactured stuff under our Christmas tree?
This year on Black Friday, I choose to invest my time, money and energy into the things I really want
- Flowing connection with my work.
- Fellowship with others.
- Communion with the Divine.
- Deep tissue connection with my body.
- Psychological clarity; the loosening and dissolution of dysfunctional patterns and projections.
- Intellectually stimulating endeavor.
- Fascination, engagement, expansion.
This year, as the holidays come upon us, and we celebrate the ancient festivals of the return of the light, I am exploring the possibility of an economy – personal and political – that gives me more of that: More light, more love, more life.
That’s the market I’m shopping in this year
A marketplace that offers – and delivers – more and more and more of the things we truly long for. This year, I am expanding into that economy – greedily and with deep gratitude.
Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Black Friday.