I’ve been away for a while.
And in a sense that feels very good. It feels good to get away from the computer, from the constant onslaught of news, status updates, tweets, and emails.
Mostly, I have been catching up on real-life projects, spending time with real-life people, and even reading physical books. I was fortunate enough to have a very wonderful visitor and travel companion for a little journey taking us to London, Liverpool, Cork, and Dublin.
Thanksgiving was spent in Cork in a thoroughly un-American style: attending a lecture on modern Chinese Buddhist educational reforms, a glass of Irish stout (the local, Beamish), and an Italian dinner. When I’m back home, Thanksgiving is generally my favourite holiday, probably because it brings together friends and family in the simple tradition of gratitude, untarnished by commercial interests like most other holidays. There are no real expectations – except for certain food expectations: Cheri must bring her mustard-cheese cauliflower, and my brother, Brandon, pretty much has to make his string-bean casserole…
But everything changes the next day, the day we used to know as: “the day after Thanksgiving.” Now it’s Black Friday. The name alone makes me want to stay inside. Being in Ireland didn’t help much, as the shopping district in Cork was packed with shoppers and sales and the “English Market” was preparing for one of its (used to be once yearly, now thrice yearly) evening extravaganzas. And yet it was nothing like the insanity (pepper spray, shootings) in the US. Not even close.
Our culture is screwed. Fueled by Black Friday – total spending over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend hit a record of $52.4 billion. But the real question is – at what cost to our society? This year’s Black Friday featured its usual flare of violence, desperation, and death. At a Wal Mart in Little Rock, Arkansas dozens of shoppers rioted over $2 waffle makers.
So while I missed my family and friends in Montana, I am grateful to have missed the consumer mayhem of the weekend.
I even managed to dodge yesterday’s newly created “Cyber Monday.” I spent some time online – and I received the numerous emails from seemingly each and every business I have ever bought something from – but I just didn’t have it in me to shop.
It feels good to be avoiding the chaos. Less time shopping and hunting for the perfect gifts = more time actually spent with the people I care about and enjoying the preciousness of life itself. Isn’t that enough?