Location: St. Vincent & Grenadines

You were driving home in the dark on one glass-slippered heel, window sliced open and bathing in the snowliquor of the night air. We heard you singing, and couldn't bear to wake you.

24 December 2005

A mare. Egrets. Moose.

According to a Texas history professor whose parents apparently liked pasta a whole lot, "a new Gallup poll reports that this year the average shopper planned to spend more than $700 on gifts."

That's the average?!?

Gotta wonder, if the percentage of U.S. citizens living in poverty is somewhere around 12.5 percent -- meaning that one in eight people in this country can't afford basic necessities -- just how that average was calculated.

I mean, I'm doing okay financially. Petit bourgeois, more or less. Not much padding, but we get by. And I'm not spending anywhere near $700 on gifts. Can't afford it, don't want to spend the time, and no one I care about needs more crap anyway. So who are these average folks with seven small to blow on trinkets?

Sometimes the capitalistic orgy of Christmas -- which has no more to do with Christ than 90% of Christianity does -- seems sexual to me. You know, a big frenzy of gratuitous giving and taking. People getting all lathered up over illusions. But then other times it seems more like a drug thing, like there's a desperate, out-of-control edge to it: production, consumption, production, consumption. I made this. Now buy it. Buy three. Buy one for everyone you know. It's your duty. Do it or you're out of the game, a traitor, a failure, unloved.

I mostly opted out this year, though I was wishy-washy as always. And I'm okay with that. I'd much rather be wishy-washy than a fanatic. So I bought some smallish stuff for some people I loved, stuff that was neither inappropriate nor especially remarkable, and I got some stuff that I mostly liked, but I can't remember who gave me what. It just doesn't matter.

I enjoy giving and receiving gifts, especially when they are unexpected. On my eleventh birthday, my father gave me a book that has been in our family for four generations, signed by Mark Twain. Now that was a gift. It didn't have to come on my birthday. I didn't expect anything comparable when the next birthday came around.

The rituals that matter are unique, momentary, and stamped with the hoof of the heart. To give or receive a real gift, to do it truly, is to surrender. You know, an act of love. Without that, the exchange is hollow.

So commit acts of love. How doesn't especially matter. Whether it's an object or an idea or your body or your listening or whatever, give and receive with grace. Expect nothing. Give all that you can stand, but only if it matters, only if you're paying attention. If you're not, if it doesn't matter, then don't. Stop. Let yourself be silent. There is no duty here.

If it matters, do it.

If it's fun and it doesn't hurt anyone, do it.

If not, toss it in the trash.

Merry Christmas.


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