A calm, sedate, yet nevertheless festive Christmas greeting.
When in the world did the Christmas season become so loud? And I mean that in a figurative as well as an aural sense. It's more than just the ever-present catterwaul of Mariah Carey, or similar 'artistes,' from somewhere in the background you understand. The general over the top atmosphere riddled with superficial hyperbole that begins in September and, if retailers are anything to go by, ends abruptly on December 26th seems all wrong somehow. The season actually lasts into January.
Of course, it isn't simply retailers that do this to us. It seems to be our whole culture. Movies, television, radio, and everyday people as well. The endless, exhaustive, misdirected, tacky, plastic elf-on-the-shelf "half-time" holiday extravaganza of the 21st century that assaults our senses each year at this time bears little resemblance to the quiet, contemplative, calm, unplugged holidays of my childhood and younger years where we actually enjoyed each others' company and talked to rather than blurted at each other. Yeah, it was still like this as recently as the 1990s.
Maybe it is simply age (the wrong side of 50) that has brought on this rather frank examination, but with age sometimes comes perspective. It seems the relatively disposable gadgets and noncommittal attitudes of "If you don't like it, I kept the receipt so you can exchange it" have become as pervasive as having the TV switched on in the corner from early morning to late evening. But no one is actually watching anything. Do people really put so little forethought into what they do for (?) others? Is this really the idea behind Christmas?
The first time I came into contact with this sort of thing was with the family of a young woman I came close to marrying 20+ years ago. A near run thing that. And we won't even mention the apparent addiction suffered by so many that has come along more recently. No, not opioids or methamphetamine. I refer, of course, to people of all ages who walk around and even sit with Iphones forever in hand, or on their knee, and check incessantly for incoming text messages. Even. While. At. The. Dinner. Table.
Newsflash, ladies and gentlemen! Few of us are that interesting or important. Put your gadgets down for a few minutes. We all have them at this point, and I'm not impressed. Leave the ostentatious display of your relative affluence for another time, thank you. "OMG! Can U b leave wut he jst sd?" as so many might rashly text their besties filled with righteous indignation and invective in response.
Returning to the real point at hand, which is the the now rather generic holiday season in which we are awash, I have a modest proposal for society at large. Maybe we should do things differently in moving forward? It might be time to turn off the constant flow of largely pointless information for a time and engage more with the people across the (figurative) table from and to either side of you. It might also be time to reevaluate our collective attitude and how we approach the Christmas period. Maybe we ought to scale back a bit in how we go about it? Does everything honestly need to be the biggest, baddest, shiniest, blinkingest, newest, fastest, talkingest? Maybe we need to reconsider what is most important? Various things worth thinking about in the last week or so before the festival begins in earnest.
I suggest taking a slow approach to Christmas, and indeed life in general. Turn off, tune out, and drop out for a week or ten days. The virtual world ain't going anywhere. Return to the physical world. Find and take pleasure in small things. Read a book (Shock, horror, gasp!). Have a game. Toy soldiers, cards, Yahtzee, chess. It doesn't matter. It's time to reconnect with people. Have a drink or a cup of something warm at home or at a cafe. Talk to each other. Help others. Be kind. Visit an elderly family member or neighbor who is alone. This time of year can be very hard for some people especially when they have no one nearby, or their family is all gone. Show that person you care. Take some holiday goodies along, or even invite that person out. He or she will appreciate it to no end, and I'll bet you might even get a smile in return. Stranger things have happened.
What else? Take walks in the park or around town on a brisk day. Look around you rather than at your lap or hands where the phone usually resides. Have some completely idle and unproductive time. You don't always need to be doing something. Just say no to data collection or vapid, pointless time wasted online! Sit still for a while. Watch the world go by. You'll see some beautiful and interesting things in the next couple of weeks if you take the time to look up and move your head from side to side. Who knows? You might find that the "cute," ironic, or downright snarky holiday texts from your latest Bro/BFF/friend-with-benefits, the 24-hour marathon of It's A Wonderful Life on TCM, and that singing plastic bass on the wall (a particularly tasteless Christmas gift from years gone by. Remember it?) aren't all they're cracked up be.
In closing, it's high time for more of us to live life instead of simply observing it via a tiny screen and things like Snapchat or Instagram with their carefully curated (but largely artificial) versions of others' lives. If you'll pardon the rather obvious reference (in my best Hugh Grant intonation), life actually is all around us. If we just turn off the TV, stop being slaves to our portable electronic devices, and turn our backs on the passive spectator lifestyle that has taken over everywhere, it seems, we might have more time to begin living life once more. That might have a direct bearing on our own self-esteem, mood, sense of purpose, and humanity toward others. Just a small thought as we move into high gear with the real start of the Christmas Festival.
My own busy-bodiness aside, the above is as much a comment on our shallow, totally self-absorbed society of 2017 as it is on our commercialism, consumerism, materialism, and false bonhomie throughout the year. An unpleasant phenomenon that becomes especially pronounced each December. The good is out there, but we must wade through mountains of superfluous stuff to find it.