Updated: Nov 30, 2019
Welcome to this glorious Black Friday, November 29, 2019. How do you plan to spend this rare and precious day that will never come again?
It’s maddeningly ironic to me that on the day after we give thanks for all that we have in our lives, many feverishly shop till they drop – Getitude (Thanks for the word, DC!). It’s maddening to me because it is me! It’s how I lived! I openly admit that for most of my life, I was driven to accumulate material wealth. Though beyond my teenage years I may have never admitted it, I pretty much lived as though ‘he who dies with the most toys wins.’ So, Black Friday, heck ya! I get it!
We live in a society of consumerism which is driven by dissatisfaction and desire – according to Buddha, dissatisfaction is the cause of suffering.
Satisfying our desire through shopping, albeit temporarily, is remarkably effective. And the people who sell you these products know it. In think tanks around the world, corporate executives and marketing experts are discovering ways to exploit our tendency to be dissatisfied and create desirable products. Products that immediately gratify our tastes, wants and needs. As we all know, immediate gratification numbs the itch. But the anesthesia soon wears off. Our mind and our body learns very quickly how to anesthetize our dissatisfaction. Shop. Buy. Accumulate.
Consumerism is also founded on a destructive common belief that accumulation of property and wealth is a path to social and self-improvement – as we obtain more, we become better people. Consumerism is largely driven by scarcity. This scarcity lights a fire under our butts and gets us in the stores, online or on the phone before it’s too late and the price goes up or the product is no longer available. Hurry, buy it meow! Scarcity feeds on our fears. Combine a fear driven scarcity with dissatisfaction, and well, you get frenzied Black Friday shoppers – people like me.
It’s common in this society to be shamed for not having the latest and greatest and for not being self-sufficient. In fact, we tend to raise our kids to be independent by eighteen. We can only live autonomously, however, if we have a house full of goods – how convenient for industry. How devastating for humanity (and the earth). We need each other. We need community.
I guess what’s most disheartening to me is that as we become self-sufficient and temporarily satisfy our dissatisfaction through accumulation, we need others less – the wealthier we are, the easier it is to isolate and separate ourselves from community. In our isolation, we tend to lose sight of the fact that others from around the world manufacture the products that allow us to live independently. We think we’re doing it on our own, that we need no-one else. Yet, our autonomous lives are made possible by countless others. We are inseparable and utterly dependent upon one another for our very own survival regardless of how much we have.
From Getitude to Gratitude.
Overcoming Getitude is an ongoing process and occasionally I succumb to stimulus driven pleasures to numb the selfish itch. But I’m learning, slowly, that the more I scratch something the more it itches. The opposite is also true. I’m learning that I don’t need as much as I thought I did. Just because I have an itch doesn’t mean I need to scratch it. In fact, I’m learning that the things that I thought I needed actually ended up bringing about more suffering that it did pleasure.
It would suggest that because I’m able to sit here in this chair and type away on my laptop, I have everything I need. It probably suggests that I have more than I need. It also probably suggests that I’m far more privileged than most. Though at times my mind does its utmost to convince me otherwise, why shouldn’t I be grateful – all the time?
Practicing Gratitude has been a long, arduous journey. But I do have to say that it has been one of the most rewarding paths I’ve ever walked. I’m discovering that when I am in gratitude, there is no desire, dissatisfaction, anger, resentment, jealousy, envy nor worry.
When in gratitude, there is no emptiness within us. We are fulfilled and whole. We are content.
I’m not suggesting here that shopping on Black Friday, or any other day for that matter, is inherently bad and is going to create suffering. Nevertheless, I feel it’s important to recognize the possibility and to be sure about what our intentions are. Giving is truly important. If we wisely choose to save some money and holiday-shop for our loved-ones and friends on this Black Friday, let’s be mindful and try and buy gifts that instead of isolation, foster relationships.
Most important, please remember that the kindest gift that we can offer anyone is our full attention. It costs us nothing and to them, it is priceless.
I love you and there isn’t anything that you can do about it.
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