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THE CRAZYBUSY CULTURE

Crazybusy

Crazybusy
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OCTOBER 22, 2010 4:56PM

Tis the Season...

Rate: 9 Flag

As the weather turns cold and leaves begin to fall, another round of Holidays begin.  And, with this arrives my annual ranting of the crazed spirit that befalls upon us.   It is the time of year I desperately crave to live in another culture—one where they are not inundated with the religious panic and gun-point reparations that the U.S. claims as, “The Season of Giving.” Greedy Americans consume most savagely—a materialistic school of piranhas-- eating, drinking, partying, shopping, and…yes, giving. 

Now, I’m Jewish, so I may be a tad bitter.  And, let’s be honest; giving, for a Jew, is not part of our genetic make-up.  Oh sure, we give.  But, we give in a mechanical, bookkeeping sort of way.  Giving is a prudent and logical exchange offered within an obligatory barter system, as opposed to our souls’ joyous release:  John gave me a check for 50.00 on my birthday, so I better give him 50.00, too. 

Our Crazybusy Culture is now heightened to a crescendo-like peak, as people cram cooking, baking, party-making, party-going, community-serving, fund-raising, church-attending, and merriment-expecting into their already gridlocked schedules.  Oddly, in a time when the landscape begins to hibernate—drawing its energy into its core and preparing for winter’s calm slumber— human inhabitants choose to trample over this natural cycle with mall-thronging, hymnal-howling, and cocktail-sloshing, extroverted frenzy. 

If there were a cultural deity one could sue for punitive damages, I surely would.  All I want is to experience the fall months until mid-January in peace and quiet.  Instead, it’s louder and more cacophonic than the rest of the year, combined. 

 

***

So, what’s a bitter Grinch to do?  This year, a friend who is struggling through his second year of cancer helps to put things into perspective.  He states,

I cannot help but revisit the centrality of connection. In this disease process I’ve experienced a visceral acknowledgement of how much connection to family and friends means. For most of my life I have defined myself, at least in part, by what I did: husband, parent, teach, build furniture, cross country ski, mountain bike, etc. Many of these definitions are foreign to me now through the action of Leukemia, and so I have been left to reconstruct the daily selfhood construction and maintenance.  Foremost has been connecting to family and friends.

Being home has allowed me to welcome more visitors on a more regular basis than in hospital. So I have been lucky enough to be in a position to ‘manage’ folks who want to visit—in part as my energy still is marginal and in part to parse out visits like one who is able to savor sweets… unlike myself who pretty much always finished them off inordinately quickly. Being so blessed to savor a visit a day enriches each encounter so that I appreciate each person and the disparate, lovely presence they bring. Really a skill and luxury I had never before apprehended.

 

***

When I visited Australia, I remember people greeting each other with "How you goin?" instead of "How are you doing?"  I liked that, but hadn't reflected upon why.  My friend’s message helped to clarify.  It emphasizes Being vs. Doing-- how one chooses to be, in whatever situation they are placed.  When life is boiled down to its essence, what is left?

In Hospice Volunteer training, we identified the ten most important "things" in our lives.  They could be material things-- house, car, etc. - or they could be people, or they could be qualities- a sense of humor, kindness, gratitude, etc.  

We wrote each thing on a small scrap of paper.  Then, we were told that we had a terminal illness and one year to live.  We were instructed to say goodbye to all of our things.  So, safe in our health and in the company of the group, we sat on the couches and comfy chairs, and one by one, said goodbye to each thing.  And each time, we crumbled the paper and tossed it on the floor in front of us.

We sat there in silence.  Many people cried and shook, privately.  After a few minutes, the facilitator said, "Now, imagine that you are healed, and all is well.  One by one, pick up each paper, uncrumble it, and welcome that thing back into your lives."  

The immense relief and gratitude that emerged from a simple ten-minute activity was palpable.  It was also enlightening, as I realized how the list immediately transformed.  The only things that mattered- the only things that I knew I wanted at the end of my life-- were my friends and family—there with me, in the room.  The only things I needed were my qualities-- a sense of humor, honesty, and introspection.  The career, retirement home, favorite wooden bowls (these actually made the top ten, eek!), the Whatever- vanished.  

Dear ones.   As you begin to hurl yourself into this Holiday Season, forgo the material madness.  Spend time with your friends and family, not money on them.  The most important gift you can give is the gift of yourself.  Just be with the people you love. 

 

Happy Holidays.

 



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You have an undisputable point, and I'm inspired. However, if I told my friends and family that I wasn't getting them anything except for more time with me I'm pretty sure they would roll their eyes and say nasty things behind my back. Wonderful post nonetheless!
I'm usually good through this season, even though I don't have any family or close enough friends that I would celebrate it. It's when people at work start asking me how I'm going to "celebrate" that I start to have problems because they don't seem to want to take not celebrating as a response. Then I end up having to explain myself for why I have nothing going on in my social life. By the time they're done, I'm seriously depressed and thinking of jumping from a flying sled.
I hate this season, too.

Can you imagine yourself alone in a room dying, surrounded by your favorite wooden bowls?
i love thanksgiving because of the attitude of gratitude and most christians have long forgotten the true meaning of this holiday. great post. rrrrr
The most peaceful place in the world is Italy during the Christmas season - it's a very holy time there, and not secular at all. Midnight mass at Le Chelle high in the mountains on a snowy Christmas Eve was the only gift we gave ourselves one year, and it was magical. Being out of the country solved the gifting and entertaining problems as well. I'd go every year if I could. Instead, we re-create the spirit and have stopped participating in gifting, but do send cards to let folks know a donation to a charity was given in their name. Of course, we don't have young children to entertain, which is a tremendous challenge for families in this over-wrought culture, but there is something to be said for holiday travel to a peaceful and serene place where you can just enjoy the company of immediate family and/or close friends and feel entirely unburdened from expectations that can accumulate at home.
I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say a great gift to all readers of this blog and countless others would be for some shady task force be activated, track down and assasinate the purveyors flogging their crap on every blog, and hurl them screaming bad English into a pit, and buried under a cargo ship's container full of Ed Hardy bikinis, sunglasses, big ugly sneakers, and ripoff Coach bags. Happy Holidays!
Amen to that, Marco Polo. Guess I'll go take out the garbage, again.

Although, it's a fabulous display of irony, doncha think?
I'm trying to focus on experiences, not stuff. God almighty we don't need any more stuff. We need a house fire and a dumpster. So... (shh don't tell the kids) we're going on a trip for christmas. The kids are getting new suitcases. I think my daughter might be getting her ears pierced. We might get some prepaid ski tickets. Things to do, experiences to have, not stuff to own. I've been getting my parents concert or theater tickets the last few years.
Hey Tommy Boy,
I'd say your perspective on our culture is about as accurate as your perspective on me. I'm a dame.
See previous blogs-- oh yeah, that's right; no one reads Open Salon.
Enjoy your advertizing-free season in LaLaLand.
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Great post. In my book about working retail, I talk about how truly insane people become after Thanksgiving and the frenzy to buy Exactly The Right Thing (impossible for most people) ratchets up to furious pitch. It was shocking and sad that so many people were persuaded that only some piece of costly junk would be "enough" to satisfy their recipients.
I love Christmas. I think it is great that we want to give tons of stuff to our friends and loved ones. And, if we don't, I think it is not a great value for which we should applaud ourselves. Learning to give is a blessing. I also think it is great to learn to receive. That's right. To allow others to please us and to enjoy what wonderful, yeah, STUFF, there is in life. Yep, call me materialistic. And, by the way, I suspect that most people we know also like nice stuff. (Suspect you do too.) What do you want, less giving? Less buying? Why? What is special about that? Are we really sure that we're not buying into some Leftist silliness when we bemoan the "materialistic culture"? Are you giving away your precious items? Living like a hermit? Sure, there is a balance, but, if we can afford it, why not enjoy one, not the only, part of life that entails giving and receiving and having? (BTW, no one ever bemoans birthdays. I think that we learn to bemoan Christmas because it seems cool. Actually, it is, to me, sad and a touch intolerant.)

Sure, material items don't replace love and God and other things that make life worthwhile, but they do add to the joy of life.

Happy Chanukkah and Merry Christmas to those who celebrate that one!

Now, go shopping and indulge your friends. It's good for business too!

BTW, no matter what one's religion, as a musician, it is my opinion that ignoring Christmas music is a great musical loss.
The Soviets got one thing right: They nixed Christmas and celebrated the New Year. The Russians decorate pine trees for New Year, Grandfather Frost in his red suit (with his pretty helper Snowmaiden) brings presents for kids. Families exchange presents. There's a feast. Everyone can partake, regardless of religion.

Christmas, Hannukah and Eid are religious holidays, observed by the faithful in church or at home, with vodka toasts (yes, for Eid, too, except possibly in Chechnya, where the Saudi Wahabbists have been busy).

Ultimately, Christmas or any other holiday is what you make of it. If it's important to give or get the most expensive present, then that's your tradition, but just don't blame the stores if the material in your celebration outweighs the spiritual.

It's your choice. Choose wisely.
Dear Mahushinka,

The Soviets (and I live in Russia and love Russia) "got it right" by killing from 20 to 45 million people. They also, what the heck, "got it right" by forcing people to give up Christmas and chucking people in prison (or killing them) for openly, or being caught while doing it clandestinely, celebrating religious holidays.

They were murderers also who beat Hitler in numbers.

Do you really mean to say they "got it right"?

And, even if you don't like Christmas or other religious holidays, why in the world would you find it logical to assume that just by moving it to another day and calling a fir tree a New Year's tree, you would be nixing the horror of the "materialism" (the author's gripe) of it? Why wouldn't the "materialism" just transfer to that day? Your "logic" is lacking.

I find it marvelous that many Russians are now starting to embrace Russian Christmas and I am thrilled when I see a Russian boy or man wearing yarmulke. How glorious to see a symbol of freedom of religion in this wonderful country that was ruled for much too long by thugs.

Come over here and ask those Russians who bemoan the loss of Christmas songs and traditions if they thought the "Soviets got it right". You might also ask them if they are sorry they lost an aunt or an uncle or a grandfather or grandmother to the Gulag.

The ignorance you show of the horror of communism is an insult to those who lived under it and/or lost people to it.

I hope you give this some thought and also hope you are simply very young and just out of college, or something alone those lines.
Dear Malushinka, I just saw that you ARE Russian (or live in the country.) Good Lord, that makes it even sadder that you commended what the Soviets did.

Oh man.
@Barbara Joanne
I think you misread my letter. I said, the Soviets got ONE thing right, implying not much else.

Further, being reasonably well educated and having Russian friends and relatives, I am neither ignorant of the historical, general nor the deeply personal tragedies of communism.

My logic was this:
By celebrating the New Year instead of Christmas, the Russians have an inclusive holiday. When decorated pine trees sprouts on every square, when lights are strung from every telephone pole, when songs are piped into every store, no member of any religion feels left out as the country celebrates someone else's religion.

Even if the Russian celebration of New Years eventually rivals the American celebration of Christmas for commercialism and materialism, the Russians will be spared the hypocrisy of celebrating the birth of the ultimate in non-materialist with a gigantic shopping binge.

Christmas is celebrated in Russia, but as a religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus and his gospels. Let's not forget Matthew 21, where Jesus throws moneylenders and buyers and sellers out of the temple, a statement about his views on shopping.

There are many aspects of Russian society that I like, although I know that some were forged in the terrible furnace of communism ideology. I also highly value the words of our Declaration of Independence, that "All men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness," although I know their author owned slaves.

I hope this explanation was really not necessary and you merely did not read my letter carefully.