On Birthday and Christmas Presents

This was originally going to be a straight up, written post, but I got to watching some folks’ video logs and wound up hauling out the webcam.

Turns out that’s the first actual use of it I think I’ve had since I bought it with some cash my stepson and stepdaughter-in-law gave me for my birthday. Which makes for an interesting illustration of this video’s point, I think…

Some notes that I don’t think I touched on well enough in the vlog:

  • When poeple try to rag out the buying of presents at Christmas, they tend to use big, high-concept words like “crass consumerism,” like they’re joining a political front. I want to try using personal words, talk about my own feelings on the subject instead of trying to unite myself with some broader battle for The True Spirit of Christmas, if such exists.
  • I hate the sound of that word. Starts with a “Grr!” and ends in “Attitude.” it even sounds like “Rat I chewed.” (Ever noticed that “rat” makes a good swear word or accusation?).
  • I know a lot of folks can use “gratitude” as a pure positive, but I can’t. How many times have you heard it used as an admonishment? A way of taking someone else down a peg because someone else thinks that that someone is too happy? “You must remember to be grateful, young Jimmy.” It’s even a bully tactic: “Be grateful for what you’ve got.”
  • The words I approximately borrowed were those of Robert A. Heinlein. The words for gratitude in Japanese were from Stranger in a Strange Land, and I’m pretty sure the ones about manners are from Time Enough For Love.
  • Glad is happiness, but it’s that soft, cuddly happiness untainted by that rush that usually comes with what a lot of folks expect out of being happy, the rollercoaster of constant “awesomeness”. Glad is warmth. Glad is satisfaction, satiation. Glad is enough.
  • Really, if you’re glad, isn’t it a good thing worth spreading in its own right? That the people who other say you ought to give credit to would, if they’re genuinely glad themselves, would rather you just pay your gladness forward instead of trying to pay some non-existent debt back in the name of showing your gratitude?
  • The only place debt might need to exist is in bank balances and ledger books where it can be quantified in hard figures. And even then, that’s arguable.
  • Presents turn into that battle of who got what for whom and making sure you can get a present that’s somehow “worth” as much, even if you can’t afford it, even if you don’t even know what it’s true worth to the person you’re getting it for will be.

If you did away with presents, giving or receiving, how would you celebrate someone’s birthday or a Christmas Day?

Featured image by Mike_fleming; used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence.

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