I’m weird, I know I’m abnormal; and always have. The first birthday I can recall I didn’t want to open the gifts, not for some other reason or distraction, but because the receiving of gifts made me feel uncomfortable. Yes, even on my birthday and christmas. I suppose that made it even more likely for me to subscribe to anti-materialism and anti-consumerism later in life. I have been away from home for 5 of those winter celebrations, and you know, aside from missing ” my family on those days (of which I have many), I have always had a pretty good time. And for me, one of the best parts about being away from family is not being away from family, but simply not receiving the de facto expected gifts. Granted, my family finds ways nonetheless, but I am allowed to deal with them then on my own terms. Open one, put them off a day, whatever I want. What I end up doing most of the time is opening what I think I will need and saving them for days when I could use a genuine surprise. Those grinding, nothing goes right, why doesn’t the coffee machine or toll-booth work kind of days.
And on the assigned day and time that most of America is binging on gifts or food, I am sitting in a park (weather permitting) with a coffee, and a finger-sized 70%+ cacao bar of chocolate. Which I am doing as I write this, though this time it’s a Mexican 7/11 cappuccino, which apparently has cinnamon. It’s relatively quiet here. There is the hum of cars on the freeway, a family playing basketball, and otherwise silence. And this is exactly what I want from a winter solstice celebration. Drink like it’s going out of fashion the night before, drink water until sober, sleep, wake up early, take my time showering and really enjoy the water, get dressed, and find coffee.
The water I think is most important to explain here, the lack of appreciation most people have of it. Imagine if you can, time traveling to the Viking era, and explaining that you have a (essentially) limitless supply of clean, safe, drinkable water that you can simply twist a knob and choose how cold or hot it is, and that you use it to bathe in…
I have a unique appreciation for such little things, water most especially. Let me explain, since my youth I have been a DIY survivalist, wilderness and urban, taken and taught courses on it, I have lived in anarchist squats, often no water; and if there is then the pipes may be dangerous and make the water undrinkable, or the temperature is whatever it is, and I have lived in a couple parks (a choice, not necessity). Additionally I have practiced wilderness survival in the deeper parts of the Los Angeles forest, not sure if the places have burned down or not since then. And you know what was always the least available, most precious resource, was clean, safe, drinkable water. At most you wet a cloth and rub, no deodorant or hair products as you need water and soap to remove them.
For fans of The Walking Dead tv series, it comes straight out of the show, water is life, it’s position should be held high in society, venerated and revered. Personally I find water to be a mystical and powerful piece of our world.
Now, allow me to switch gears here. How much of the trash created today will end up in our rivers, streams, swamps, and ocean? What of the plastic waste we create? Of all the things people give and get today, how many of them are actually useful, necessary, or definitely awesome, and that will be cherished? And now think of the landfills and waters that the refuse from today will end up in. All this, the hype, the advertisements, the electricity for the lights and plastic-making industry. For what? To give a thing that probably won’t even be around in a year or two, granted, there are plenty of exceptions; and of course there are other reasons that people feel obliged to give gifts, but socialization and indoctrination aren’t good enough reasons. Just because it is the appointed time according to those who sell things, doesn’t mean that we should collaborate. What if you only ever gave a gift, when and if you: found something perfect, and just gave it, no wrapping, except your smile, at whenever it was that you found it and saw the person you intended? What if we did away with the pomp and hype and actually thought about what we do, why we do it, and didn’t insert the easy and automatic answers which we have heard and unthinkingly repeated before?
My thought for today, is consider consciously everything you do today. Pay attention to what you start to do automatically, introspect and seek out the “why.” Then once you have it, and your mind is ready, imagine a different world, where the trappings didn’t matter, the timing only had meaning to the givers and receivers of gifts, that we didn’t thoughtlessly just do things because it was just what people do (or attempt to shame you for not playing the part society dictates you should play), and we all actually lived, intentionally. How much wasted water, power, resources, or food would not be squandered?
My thought to you then, is not to stomp your holiday cheer, but rather to find that cheer internally. Realize that everyone is trying to dance to the pipe that no one plays but everyone hears, and maybe if we simply stopped dancing to its phantom tune we could all actually live better, love more fully, and be better to one another.
It is not in my nature to use the word cheer, or be optimistic, or approach dehumanization or environmental destruction with such a tone. My natural state is pessimism, cynicism, and jaded critique. So savor it, for my next post will probably be scathing, and I will most likely destroy an idea you never questioned but consider part of your identity. Also apparently that shower I had was laced with something, yes, that is my excuse, laugh or lament, gnash your teeth and wail at the depth of my jadedness.