a black friday metaphor

A bit of a tardy note on Black Friday.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated the “holiday”.  The hype, the ads, and the crazed shoppers that trample their fellow humans all serve to make me wonder what we value most as a culture.  This year, they pushed it even farther back, Black Friday extending into Thanksgiving itself as some stores opened at 8 pm Thanksgiving night.

I think it’s a metaphor.

What’s happening in our society is an obsession, and one that I’ve bought into as well.  Of course we need things, and things matter to keep us alive, link us to others, and make our lives easier.  The trouble starts when little things become our ultimate Things, taking the place of God, family, and friends, and we begin to trade relationships for power, wealth, and stuff.  When the desire for a new iPad becomes more important than the safety of the person next to you, we have a problem.  Traditions, time with family, and counting our blessings are slowly having the rug pulled out from under them by our own looming greed and desire.

As humans, we are relational beings at heart, and the fascination with things continues to tear apart our links to others just as it has for years.  Mankind is selfish at its core, and that greedy egoism rears its head at every new invention and toy.  But things cannot fulfill us.  They cannot love us back, encourage us, or pick us up when we fall.  The very technology designed to connect us to one another is damaging our ability to hold real conversations, and instead, we revel in anonymity and feel lonelier and lonelier as we scroll through websites that don’t really mean anything.

America in particular is so consumerist, and that’s only getting worse – or maybe just more obvious.  We’re concerned with practicality, and we value the accumulation of wealth, power, and fame above most anything else.  We value things for their immediate use to us, and so things art, music, and writing are marginalized.  Does it bother me? Yes.

But I am thankful for my wonderful family with whom I got to spend my Thanksgiving, and my love for them was able to overshadow the distress I felt for the consumerist encroaching of Black Friday.  And, I have to admit… I did get a pair of jeans.

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Read this:  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Download this: StayFocusd.  I downloaded it recently, and it only lets me spend ten minutes a day on my blocked sites (aka, tumblr).  Take THAT, Internet!

 

EDIT:  This article just came up, and I think it’s relevant to this.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gordon-brown/child-labor-trafficking_b_2245536.html .  Fourteen child laborers were just found and freed from making Christmas decorations for the west.  We tend to just assume that what we buy appears in the stores, and we don’t think about where they come from and what pain was put in to try to make this.  I’m not proposing a solution.  This is just something to think about.

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airport.

Friday, 2/3:

I’m in the airport, and some odd instrumental version of Phantom of the Opera is playing over the loudspeakers.  It’s kind of weird, but whatever.  I don’t think that the Phantom is going to come through the windows behind me and teach me how to sing.

The loudspeaker tells me that someone’s forgotten their iPad, which is quite a shame.  It keeps muttering over the bustle of the terminal in constant reminders, a disembodied Hermes, shuttling messages to forgetful mortals everywhere.  Maria might miss her flight to Las Vegas if she doesn’t hurry.

Airports are always the most marvelous place to people-watch.  I can’t think of a better one.  Nobody stays in an airport.  That’s not what it’s meant for.  It’s inherently a locus of comings and goings, entrances and exits, a stage of life where no one stays for very long.

People become a single one of their features as they quickly pass: a bald head, a funny hat, velcroed shoes, an enormous book, a wedding band, a stroller, a designer handbag.

Final call, flight 1683.

It’s interesting to dream up stories here, watching the ebb and flow of humanity.  Everyone is going somewhere, and each of the lines of each of their lives momentarily converge, mingle together, tangle and untangle, before separating to continue on with their own hopes, dreams, wants, needs, families, friends, jobs, studies.

I’ve tried to employ and improve my powers of deduction (what has Sherlock done to me?), but it hasn’t been hugely successful.  She’s married? Well, considering her husband and two point five children, I probably could have guessed.  Or, he’s left handed!  …Useful.

After a failed attempt at conversation I managed to deduce that my cab driver was a Baptist, was orderly and careful but not anal, not very fond of his job, and a fan of R&B.  All not very useful things.  But I’m starting somewhere.

I should probably stop watching and start interacting sometime soon, but everyone’s pretty wrapped up in their phones, magazines, novels.  I guess I’ve got my laptop, here, as well.

Maybe in a moment.  But I just thought I’d stop and reflect on the interestingness of airports as a singularly liminal place and the sympathy and empathy they give me for the lives of others.

Final call.

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antiquing

Hello again!  Sorry I’ve been absent so long.  I was visiting my grandparents this past week for Christmas, and it was lovely and wonderful seeing everyone (I even interviewed my grandfather about his life, which was cool), dancing with cousins, and going antiquing!

My grandparents collect and sell antiques, which is something that I never appreciated until very recently.  I remember being dragged into countless antique stores as a child, my little brother and I bored out of our minds as our parents and grandparents scoured the store.  Old chairs.  Bottles.  Lunchboxes.  Who cares?

The best was when there were Persian rugs in the back.  That made for some fun times when my brother and I climbed the stacks, ran around, and leapt from stack to stack, being adventurers until our mother or the store’s owner angrily dragged us down.

And although I still don’t understand the lunchboxes or salt and pepper shakers as much, I’m a total sucker for old books, jewellry, and clothes.  I just love old things!  I bought my friends Christmas presents, and I also got myself a few marvellous things that I stumbled across…

My favorite finds (in hastily taken, poor quality pictures!):

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1.  The book.  I stumbled across John Donne’s sermons.  Whose previous owner had handwriting that looked like the Burmese written language.  In a book from 1932.  NO BIG DEAL OR ANYTHING.

2.  These jewellry pieces, my dear readers, are scrimshaws.  Sailors used to carve them out of ivory or whalebone and send them back to their sweethearts.  I passed the case at least four times and stared at them (especially the pin) every time.  They’re simple.  But so… romantic?  Intensely personal?  I don’t know.  I started writing out a short sketch of who the previous owner might have been, and it ended up as a seven-page story about an Irish sailor and his chestnut-haired girl.

And this is why I love old things.  This is why they matter to me.  Because each of these pieces holds generations of stories and has witnessed so much life, love, tragedy, and history, and it’s now witnessing mine.  Thinking of who might have owned it first, made it, loved it, or cherished it gives a certain weight and beauty to each piece that could have been considered plain or “old”.  This is how my story ended (with me finding the scrimshaw):

The girl will see in the detailled lines of the plain whalebone the care and love of a sailor and the struggle that he and his love endured.  And she will find it beautiful once again.  The scrimshaw will finally be worn again to gain a new life’s story to remember.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.  Another year rolls by, and we’re one step closer to becoming antiques ourselves.  Cheery?  Not at first glance.  But think of the stories you will possess by the time you’re as old as some of these pieces.

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