I announced a few blogs ago that my Christmas presents will be green this year. Bird feeders, bee houses, bat houses, milkweed seeds… But then I got to thinking (after a big spree in the Wild Bird Store), why give any thing? One of the most thought-provoking books I’ve come across this year was Lost Connections, by Johann Hari.
The book examines causes of depression beyond “a chemical imbalance in the brain.” One chapter is devoted to consumerism, the profitable and highly toxic myth that we can (and really should) buy our way out of sadness, discontent, obesity, boredom, loneliness, and so forth. Underlying that falsehood is the corollary that most of us are living lives that–really, let’s be honest–could do with a make over.
GRRRR. Most of us are wonderful people, if you ask me, and doing the best we can despite many challenges. Getting out our wallets in slavish obeisance to ad psychology won’t do much of anything to improve our lives or extend the life expectancy of the planet–just the opposite, in fact.
Which brings me to the question of the day: What do I want for Christmas?
My first thought was, “Lordy, I want a truly clean house…” My little farmhouse is humble, but it could be charming. As I type this, I sit facing an interior wall of exposed chestnut logs bigger around than I am (in some places). I can see the ax marks where somebody, nearly 200 years ago, chopped off the bark before the raw beams were set aside to season. I love this house. I raised my kid here, made my lawyer-stand from this place, and have spent hours and hours playing in this yard. I write all of my books here, and I am profoundly grateful to have this domicile for my own.
But my house is not exactly company-ready and seldom has been. I don’t much care about the appearances–I can meet friends elsewhere, after all–but I live and work here. Sparkling windows, new curtains (what I have are 20+ years old), scrubbed floors and so forth would make this place more commodious for me, but I just don’t have the gumption to get after it. I do what’s necessary, and occasionally tackle a bigger job, but not often enough to make a lasting difference.
For Christmas, if it were possible, I’d like some gumption. I’d also like for the lonely folks to have love and companionship. I’d like for the homeless to have shelter, for those who are ill or exhausted to have health or rest. I’d like to give a batch of hope to the despairing, mix up a pot of loveliness for those suffering from a chronic vista of ugliness.
I’d like for us to treasure one another and our lovely planet, to put the myth of consumerism on indefinite hiatus, and see if maybe THAT doesn’t light the sort of candles that glow all year long. To three commenters, I’ll send a signed copy of Forever and a Duke (Frank not included), and then the blog will go on a year-end break. See you in January, but first: What gift, if any, would really make your life better?