Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Simple Life

When puzzled, I squint like a small owl!
Thanksgiving Day has come and gone, once again.  As is usual for me since I grew old enough to think about such things, the weekend leaves me puzzled.

I like to shop as much as the next person – it can even be relaxing! – but does anyone else feel that there’s a disconnect between the humble gratitude and quiet family-oriented celebration of Thanksgiving and the wild consumerism indulged the next day?  Black Friday scares me, in other words.

I have never gone shopping on the day.  Partly this is simply a practical choice: I’d rather have a pleasant, relaxing vacation day than scramble madly through large stores, fighting for products.  On the other hand my refusal to shop has also lately become a silent protest against the atmosphere of the day.  For weeks beforehand stores bombard you with advertisements for their Black Friday deals; ‘door-busters’ (whatever those may be) are promised solely to lure the shopper inside the doors at some ungodly hour of the morning.  All this desperation on both merchant’s and buyer’s part seems off-putting to me.

The fruit of my 50% savings!
Now, I realize that I may sound pretty snobby by writing this.  It’s not that I object to people shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, though.  There really are appealing bargains, both online and in stores, and considering how expensive everything has become in the recession, it seems only sensible to take advantage of these deals.  Since the sales quite often continue to Saturday, I myself went out yesterday to buy fabric for craft-gifts.  I was quite pleased to save almost 50% of the original cost. 

However, what I do object to is the attitude which is promoted.  Just recently The Fashionista lent me the lovely, balanced life-style guide, Lessons from Madame Chic.  One of the later chapters in the book was entitled, ‘Rejecting New Materialism.’  In this chapter, the authoress argues that the modern, and perhaps even American, mentality is not to treasure and take delight in the beautiful thing which we already own, or to exercise creativity in repurposing old possessions, but simply to buy more and still more.  Such an attitude is unhealthy and has to be counteracted.

Something which I appreciate about being an artist is that the need to notice details and think about how everything works not only has good results for my art (well-rounded characters and integrated plots, hopefully), but also for my world-view.  Instead of charging through life, aiming for a goal and forgetting the non-essential small things, I’m forced to slow down, open my eyes and look around.  When I do that, I remember that the small things are incredibly important. 

Even a snail shell can be a treasured possession!
When I walk into my room, for example, I see so many charming things: knick-knacks which friends have brought me; a wall of books; shells I collected as a child; curtains and cushions which I bought or made to coordinate together.  My room has held many of these objects since my childhood, and few of them are less than two years old.  Yet I never find them boring or long to replace them. 

I know that many people go out on Black Friday to shop for Christmas gifts, so my observations about my treasured possessions may seem disconnected.  However, it always seems to me that the sales affect electronics, gadgets, clothes and multimedia.  While all these things can be useful, it’s also true that these products are continually updated; companies put a lot of pressure on customers to have always the latest and best version. The result is an uncomfortable feeling of everyone scrambling for the latest and best, whether for themselves or others. 

No one slows down, stays at home, and feels grateful for the beautiful things which they already have.  No one really seems to stop and think, ‘What gift would make the people I love truly happy (not just more up-to-date)?’

So I guess I’m saying all this to suggest that we should not hesitate to call on our creative side during the holidays.  The temptation is to turn the days of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s into a justification for extravagant shopping and indulgence, leading to a guilty feeling in January when we literally and metaphorically stop and tighten our belts.  However, everyone has a creative side and we can each call upon it to promote a more balanced holiday season.

Creativity is detail-oriented and naturally perceptive; focus that power on the small joys, on the people dear to you.  No one will appreciate a gift, no matter how brilliantly wrested from a million other shoppers’ hands on Black Friday, if it is not accompanied by true affection.  That's why I took this past holiday to spend time with my family and friends.  It reminded me how perfect the simple joys are.    

1 comment:

  1. Our family is divided in the 'Spirit of Spending.' One side is the 'Wanters' - to want to out due the previous years, even if it means going into debt.

    The other side almost practical to the point of 'Humbuggery' (OK that may not be a real word.) But after you turn 18 gifts are supposed to just STOP.

    And quite frankly - that isn't all that fun either. As we mostly get things whenever we need them anyway. Why not leave 'Holy' days alone?

    I like gifting - but in small doses - gifts that bring giggles and mean something. Even if it is a gift card. Which makes so much more sense now that I'm older and have to mail out packages. Let people pick out what they want. Some say gift cards aren't personal. I've learned that they can be. I think we can dispense with most of the (sorry turkeys...) Gobbledeegook...and make some intelligent choices regarding budget, gift giving, wasteful time and materials and still have fun.

    You'll not see me at the mall from the second week of November to maybe the second second week of January of the new year. I shop all year round and attempt to make some gifts too. :)