When we use our time, resources and energy on the fair-to-middling, by definition, we have stopped short of greatness. When we settle for this, sometimes it’s worse than if we’d failed. Because if we did so poorly that we’re motivated to try again, we might end up doing better than mediocre.
At this point, you’re maybe thinking two things.
#1)) What the crap does this have to do with your past 2 posts? You mediocre blogger, Jeff, you have yet again promised a whole series of blogs and gotten bored half way through.
#2) Why in the world would you be babbling on about this Christmas morning.
Actually, I have a couple pretty good answers. This actually does relate to the next principle I I’m contemplating on reclaiming Christmas.
Principle #6) On Christmas, we squander so many types of resources on the mediocre, that we have nothing left for the excellent.
And on Christmas, their are many excellent things we ought to spend our resources on. The ideals beneath the day are magnificent.
Consider the idea of gift-giving. If we did this right, it could be divine. Gifts should be freely given. They should come from somewhere deep within us. There should be joy in the creation of them. They should represent something of the giver, and perhaps potray something about the reciever, as well.
If someone else made the gift, we can hope that it bolsters the local economy. That creates middle-income job, carries the flavor of the local area, and does not carry the burden of having added to our environmental problems by having been shipped from far away, and merchandised and wasteful packaging.
What do we do? We purchase mass-produced items. The cheapest and most mass-produced of these are bought on the blood and sweat or exploited workers (generally in 3rd world countries) and carry a carbon footprint that we ought to be ashamed of. As if the packaging were not bad enough, we purchase beautiful papers for the expressed purpose of tearing the paper off and throwing it away.
Gift-giving is not bad inherently. In fact it could be great. But they way we execute it, is at best, mediocre.
We go about with a sense of duty: who will we buy presents for? How much money should we spend on them? The very process of putting such a price tag on our relationships is dehumanizing. And the act of facing humanity at it’s worst, our in this fierce competetion for what we’ve been told are the most valuable presents… what a travesty.
Don’t ge wrong. I like stuff. Somebody spending some money on me is a legitimate way to sometimes express their love for me. And ditto me for them.
But I think the reason that we buy generic, mass produced items is that it is safe. When something comes from our own imagination, when it comes from our own hands, when it expresses that we’ve spent time and energy of our own in creation, we are risking ourselves.
The act of putting something of ourselves in what we give is geat… but it is also scary. A rejection of the gift, a failure to achieve the right kind-of thank you and response from the recipient, becomes a rejection of ourselves.
It is no wonder that we are sorely tempted to purchase something. A rejection of a bought gift is just a rejection of something not really connected to the giver at all. It is sad, though, that we give in to this temptation, that we don’t man (and women) up, and take a risk.
We’re preporgrammed to think about how long this will take, and how hard it will be. These are much less legitimate than the scariness of giving of ourselves. Consider the time and expense we go to, running from store to store, fighting the crowds, waiting in line, dealing with finding items, dealing with out of stock items. Some one might say, “But I can get half my stuff at store X”; I would respond that if we turn this same sort of resourcefulness inward, we might knock out half our stuff by creating several similiar things.
I suppose that somebody might say “I can’t make stuff. I can’t think of creative stuff.” To them I would say “What about a promise of a going out for coffee or beer or whatever it is you do with your friends.”
Getting stuff is good. But shared experiences are great.
And what about these holiday experiences? The endless parade or parties, meals, and celebrations?
Don’t they all start to blur into one? Why do we find it so necessary to make an appearance at all of them, if we’re going to be so run down and overwhelmed that they just run together in our minds anyway?
I think a lot of that is about our fears around offending the person who invites us. And also the flattery at being invited. There is a sort-of status in having a hundred different comitments through the holidays. But most of all, I think we are terribly afraid of slowing down.
Showing up to everything we are invited to is good. But picking and choosing deliberately would be great. Always running in fourth gear is good (kind-of). Being able to shift gears, and sometiems be in first gear and other times be in neutral, that would be great.
We’re halfway through a list of (hopefully) 12 principles around reclaiming the holidays. Why don’t you chime in, and offer some in other principles in the comments below?