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.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

katie oscar

…there is this piece of an AbrahamHicks tape. where this guy says “I’m pretty rich. I want to be richer. I want a grotesquely expensive yacht.”
Abraham says (basically): “dude, you will not get your grotesquely expensive yacht until you remove the word ‘grotesquely’ from the vibration of it.”

here is the fine line.
one side of the line: wanting what you want!!
other side of the line: wanting it and the moment you want it feeling bad about wanting it.

So its black friday and I drive to the strip mall and I see the crowd and I am ashamed.
I say: “haha. this is rediculous! all these people are ridiculous! I am not this! I am not these people or this Neeed. it is not me. I just came here to buy underwear because underwear is a nessessity. I am not this! i am going home!”

I drive to the end of the parking lot, pushed in by the lines of cars. I am just going to turn around at the first opportunity. I make it to the end, I turn, and there is a parking spot. So I park.Bbecause it is a perfect spot. And I didnt even have to look for it, so it seems a shame to waste it when the universe has litterally dropped it on my head from the sky.

My problem with this whole phenomenon is the shame! Apparently we are a culture who loves to shop. But more interesting to me is this: we are a culture who either, ignorantly doesn’t mind, or is acheingly ashamed.
what does THAT say about us?

So I walk around, and I look at our stuff. And I think about which kind of movie I am in. and I look at the glitter and I look at the smiles. i let it make me happy. i think about stores like museums, things on display, touch them, try them on, look at yourself in the mirror, run your hands over cashmere. Montages of sequins and mittens and bright eyes.
Then I notice the prepackaged gifts- at the gap they have wrapped flannel pajamas in ribbon, fifty identical packages on a table. I watch a mother daughter pair inspect them and exclaim about how these packaged pajamas solve so many ‘gift problems.” I see them, I hear what they say and it makes me mad! …gift problem…??

The problem is the gift giving. the problem is the going out and spending huge amounts of money on fifty pairs of socks to fill fifty stockings to make no one feel as though you do not love them.

The best gift giving experience I ever had was when I wrapped up the things that people had lent me during the year. It helps that am bad at returning borrowed things, i had lots of items at my disposal.
I put all the wrapped parcels under my tree, invited everyone over for a party and presented them with their presents, which already belonged to them.
The moments of ripping paper, sitting on the floor and smiles and laughing- all that still happened.
I think its all about the boxes. I admit that my favorite thing was the PILE of presents, before anyone even arrived. The stacks of stuff.

i think its the boxes and the bags. we do not care what is in them, we love the way the parcels look sitting brightly under the tree, hanging on ribbons over our arms as we turn like ballet dancers before the trunks of our cars and throw open the lid of our car-box and reveal the other parcels inside. We tuck the new boxes in beside the others, turn with our cheeks flushed and spin arabesque into our cars.

Reply

Amy

Oh, Katie! What a beautiful, thoughtful comment. It speaks directly to the issues that I have with the holidays: When we feel compelled to spend all kinds of money to give out fifty pair of socks just, as you write, ‘to make no one feel as though you do not love them,’ we are missing the whole point, aren’t we? To truly celebrate giving and receiving, why not spend time with someone – or spend time on a personal letter written to someone you care about?

You’ve inspired me to a new idea: What if we each wrote one word – words like ‘balloon joy’ or ‘emergence’ or ‘illumination’ – on a slip of paper and placed it tenderly in a white box with colorful tissue paper and a glittery bow. What if we then handed out these word boxes to each other saying, “This is my heartfelt prayer for you this year.”

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Janet

It’s all about the lines. As soon as we see people queue up, we think. “oh shit! Better get in line, too. Otherwise, someone is going to get what I want. It’ll be gone by the time it’s my turn.”

Not sure we need the media to whip us into that frenzy — when there’s a line. “

Reply

Amy

Ha! That’s true. We don’t need any ‘whipping up,’ do we? A sale is a sale is a sale…

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Cherry Woodburn

I have no Black Friday desires -for 1 thing – too many people and I rarely enjoy shopping. Add in that the past couple of years have been very tough financially so I don’t buy more than I need. After a while I learned I needed considerable less than I thought. (Also, like you I enjoy both the bargain and the recycling involved with thrift stores).
But now and then I do feel deprived, not so much because I can’t buy things, so much as I can’t do things that cost $. Also, budgeting makes me think about $ more, so it’s frequently on my mind.

All that being said, the idea of the heartfelt prayer nicely wrapped resonated with me. I can give gifts in the way I want to, which will make me feel abundant and happy. I lost sight of that type of meaningful gift. So thank you Amy and other commenters for the ideas. Made my day. Cherry

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Erin Margolin

Oh Amy. This touched a part of me…a part of me that does exactly what you speak of—only I don’t “do” Black Friday in the traditional way (i.e. I’m not in line at 3 a.m. anywhere). But I fall prey to the wanting. Especially for my kiddos. We went through so much to have them, I feel so lucky. And I want to give them everything. I also buy a lot of “stuff” for them just b/c they are whining and I’ll let them pick something from the dollar section at Target just to quiet them.

As for me? I buy myself “things” to reward myself sometimes. But like you did, I need to go to Goodwill for myself. I do often get hand-me-downs for the girls b/c they grow so fast.

I think there is this empty part of me that thinks it will find happiness if I look nicer, if I buy things to help me feel better about myself….I am by no means a shopaholic, but…

I don’t know. This makes no sense.
But definitely interesting and spot on and something people need to read! Wonderful food for thought!

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Bridget

God love you, Amy Oscar! This is exactly what I feel too. If anything is possible, why this?
I think what people are shopping for is peace. They want peace and also to escape their families. And sometimes acquiring something brings that feeling, a feeling of peace. A feeling of “I have this thing and it’s going to be okay. I can escape what I need to be looking at because life is hard.”
It makes me sad.

Reply

Amy

It used to make me sad, too. Now it helps me to understand what drives me – and others. And this is a good thing. I think we are living in a time when who we really are is being revealed to us – one layer, one Black Friday, at a time. :)

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Rebecca

I’m glad to see I’m not alone. I spent Black Friday at home, reading and writing. It was a lovely day!

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Gini Dietrich

I’m with Rebecca, but I add in making cookies with my nieces, too. That, to me, is how the holidays should be spent. And, if gifts are given, they are thoughtful, not thrown together because of a deal.

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Amy

Im with you and Rebecca myself. I’m attempting to make as many gifts as I can – and also, to make donations as gifts. Im sure I’ll still be buying things – I can resist. But Im determined to take the time to make those purchases with mindfulness and meaning.

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Jennifer Louden

great wise post Amy and do you know if everyone on earth lived the way we do – consumption of energy, goods, etc – we would require 5 planets? Quick, find 4 more!

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Amy

Shaking my head in that “Oh, we are so hopeless,” way and yet, just today, I was listening to an Abraham Hicks tape from 1998 – yes i was – and they said: “There are enough resources for you to consume endlessly, infinitely. Stop worrying about it.” They said, “It is your focus on lack that makes lack; your focus on what other people are doing – that disconnects you from your connection to the flow of abundance.” In other words, they said: My focus on other people’s greed is making me ungrateful and greedy myself? I dunno… I am considering this, and continuing to recycle as I do. But they gave me some food for thought.

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Karen Monroy

Brava! Amy. Just wonderful. Blessings.

Reply

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