Standing Against the Tide
December 20th, 2007 by Sonja

I love the beach and the ocean. It’s always been a favored spot of mine. We haven’t been in a very, very long time. There was a time when we went, along with several other families, every October. It was an annual retreat to the Outer Banks. That has gone by the wayside now for a variety of different reasons, almost all of which point to a new season in our lives. I will have to find a new time and place to visit the ocean each year.

Stand against the wavesWhen I was a child one of my favorite things to do was to stand about knee deep or so and let the waves buffet me. I wanted to see how long I could stand before the outrushing tide swept the sand out from under my feet and I no longer had a foundation on which to plant myself. Could I curl my toes around enough sand to make a stand? Me against the elements! The horse she saith into the trumpets ha ha! And I played that game with myself for many long minutes, until the temptation of the waves and my brothers became too much and off we’d go to swim or build castles in the air or something equally delightful.

As an adult, I’ve tried this but it’s lost much of its charm. I’m stronger now and more adept. I can stand now in the face of all but the most outrageous waves. In fact, the waves that it takes to knock me down as an adult are really quite dangerous and I should not be standing out in them. The ocean holds other charms for me now.

I was reading through the blog-o-sphere this morning and came upon this at Bill Kinnon’s place:

One writer against Christmas went so far as to say that the shopkeepers for their own commercial purposes alone sustain Christmas Day. I am not sure whether he said that the shopkeepers invented Christmas Day. Perhaps he thought that the shopkeepers invented Christianity. It is a quaint picture, the secret conclave between the cheese-monger, the poulterer, and the toy-shop keeper, in order to draw up a theology that shall convert all Europe and sell some of their goods. Opponents of Christianity would believe anything except Christianity. That the shopkeepers make Christmas is about as conceivable as that the confectioners make children. It is about as sane as that milliners manufacture women.
— G. K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News, January 13, 1906.

Bill, in dry spot, was quoting the inimitable Chesterton. Fancy that. It kinda got me thinking though. I had a conversation yesterday with BlazingEwe about the nature of stuff and why we have so much. And why we think we have to have more. Why we like to shop, etc. We have these sorts of conversations regularly. Because we both know we have too much stuff and we feel assaulted by the messages to get more all the time. I commented on Bill’s post that shopkeepers might not have invented Christmas, but they surely feast upon it. Yes, they do.

This quote got me thinking about the ways in which we attempt to stand against the tide as adults. Chesterton is both pithily correct and yet, wrong. We’ve long known that in the aftermath of the Depression and WWII, the shopkeepers did get together and consciously (or perhaps not) decide on the path of planned obsolescence in order to create markets and economies and desires for their products in the masses. It’s a very symbiotic relationship and this did not happen overnight, nor was it done in a vacuum without the consent and knowledge of said masses. We may like to pretend we didn’t know, but we know. We’ve bought into it on some level.

So what have we done? Over the years, the decades, the generations, we’ve allowed the powers and principalities to tell us and we’ve told each other that the way to express our love for each other is to buy bigger and better gifts for each other. We’ve done this. No one else has. We can point to the manufacturers, the advertisers, the shopkeepers, etc. But in the end, we have met the enemy and he is us. Gifts keep getting bigger. Credit card debt gets deeper. The advertising gets gnarlier. First it was radios. Then it was televisions. Now it’s big screen televisions complete with play stations. Or complete kitchen makeovers. The giving is enormous. There is jewelry, clothing, automobiles. Using one’s credit cards will allow one to compete for prizes such as the perfect gift (that will cause the special someone to swoon). ( Lest you think I’ve been watching too much television, a good friend has been working retail this year and many of my examples come from her.)

Now before you think I’m a grinch (though I am 😀 ), I don’t have anything against gifts to express our love. I just wonder if we haven’t derailed a bit. I wonder if there isn’t some other way that we can express how we feel about our loved ones. I remember reading Little House in the Big Woods with LightGirl. And in that series Laura Ingalls Wilder revealed an entirely different cultural expectation for love and how it was expressed. It was seen over and over again, not just during their several Christmas celebrations, but during the thick and thin of their lives. And … no, I’m not advocating a return to the prairie. I’m just thinking about how they expressed themselves to one another. The gifts they gave each other were rarely physical. When they were, the gift had a special significance that revealed something about the recipient’s character or the relationship between the giver and recipient. The gifts revealed a level of thought and care that are rarely seen these days.

As I reflected on Bill’s GKC quote, the things that have been disturbing me about Christmas giving were put to rest. I’m relatively unconcerned about whether or not a gift is handmade. I don’t care about how much or how little is spent. I want to know that the giver spent time and care thinking about me. Just as I spend time and care thinking about the people that I give gifts to. Giving is akin to a spiritual ritual for me and I don’t enter into it lightly. It is one of the places where I continue to curl my toes into the sand and attempt to stand against the tide. I still can’t keep my feet. I get knocked around fairly regularly by the waves. But I keep getting back up and trying again. It feels just about as useless as standing against the ocean, but she saith into the trumpets … ha ha!

One Response  
  • Calacirian » My Best Christmas Gift writes:
    December 25th, 200712:36 pmat

    […] on their trip to Florida and back to visit my uncle this fall. She grinned happily when she read my philosophy on gifting on my blog. She was thrilled at her choice in gifts this year. She knew she had outdone herself. […]

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