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A Celebration of Life

This week’s halfthought is going to be short. Sometimes less is more, and this is one occasion where that holds true. Tis the season when people waste money on useless, worthless gifts that people do not want. Miserable people mistake material possessions for affection. They should look at them for what they are: uninspired, unimaginative obligations, given by people who fear they will be unloved and misunderstood if they do not give them. Routine robs gift-giving of all its meaning. Many of the objects deemed appropriate as presents are often made by people half way across the world, who work harder than many of the gift-givers ever have, for a more meagre standard of living. Those workers may not even celebrate the same festivals. Others are what are euphemistically called ‘books’ – tedious attempts by celebrities to cash-in on their fame by employing a ghost writer to say some interesting on their behalf.

I must have missed the part of the Bible which said that every year Jesus celebrated his birthday by walking around crowded stores, mulling what tack to acquire and smother in shiny paper before handing them to friends and relations. Giving to people is fine. Perhaps, as an alternative to something which is overpriced and will probably be under-utilized, you should give your loved ones money. They may do what you were planning to do, and waste it on buying crap. They may wait a little while, and buy more crap later on, by taking advantage of the sales. Or they may do something useful with the money, like paying off that ballooning debt that seemed so good when they were buying crap and house prices were rising, but seems such a burden now, as they ponder how much they need to spend on crap whilst struggling to pay the mortgage. Either way, it will do them more good than what you probably intended to give them. And if the gift is for a child, maybe there is something gained by teaching them that love and happiness is measured by more than possessions.

Things do not make you happy. There is a saying that you do not own your possessions, they own you. In the end, if you make material objects your idol, you will end up making sacrifices to them. It seems that even a life might be exchanged for a bargain:

Happy holidays to everyone involved in that stampede. I hope their new tat was worth it. If they give it someone else, I hope the tit-for-tat exchange they engage in is worth it. I really do, because no number of presents will bring that shop worker back to life.

They say “it’s the thought that counts”. Funny then, that when it comes to gift-giving the only thought seems to be the making of a selection. Which store to buy from? Which manufacturer? Which box from which shelf? And what colour for the wrapping paper? It is true that the thought is what counts, so this season, give the gift of a thought. Write a poem, do a dance, sing a song, tell a story, bake a pie, knit some mittens, paint a picture. Do anything, give anything, so long as you give the fruits of your own hands, and your own mind. Give something that really comes from you, not one that moves through you whilst en route from the manufacturer to the recipient (and via the store where you bought it and the credit card company that paid on your behalf). If gift you actually made will mean more, cost less, and may even save some of the earth’s precious resources. Give the gift that really shows you thought about you, the world, and person you gave it to. If they love you, they will love you more because you gave a gift that really came from you. And if they fall out of love with you because the gift is not good enough, they never really loved you anyway. There are not many shopping days left until Christmas. Use them wisely, by doing something, and staying away from the shops. Do that, and it maybe this really will be the season of goodwill.

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