I finished reading Bill McKibbon’s book Hundred Dollar Holiday and I received the Center for a New American Dream’s newsletter in my inbox. They both issue clarion calls to Simplify!
For several paragraphs though, I want to willfully ignore their rhetoric, and phrase things in a different way, a way that might seem a little counterintuitive. Instead of simplicity, let’s talk about Complication.
What both of these organizations want is a reduction of stuff at the holidays, particularly some sorts of technologies, expensive new clothes, mass produced cheap shit, and anything that a fun-busting type character might point out with a dour frown, “well, you can’t take it with you.”
But the things we’re talking about replacing those items with are Complicated. Note the capital “C.” Those are things like Relationships. Time. Energy. Thought. Care. Patience. For example, the list of suggestions to simplify your holidays starts with something extremely personal and precious. Your Time. Whereas I can always earn more money, and will, I can’t earn back any of my time. If I were to gift someone a party I would reckon that’s at least 10 hours spent on invitations, baking, and cleaning, not including attending the actual party. That time might double or triple for teaching someone a skill (the third suggestion.) Though choosing a holiday gift for someone does require some knowledge of their preferences, committing to spend a dozen odd hours of them will both deepen your knowledge of them and cement your relationship further.
It will also drive home some of the things that are frustrating about people. I hate to be the holiday kill-joy here, but there are certain habits our familial relations have that are annoying. I can’t name anything specifically about my own family, because my sister reads this blog but let’s just say my family’s not perfect either.
Complicating things is worthwhile, but it does require redefinition of some of our values. For example, if we’re complicating things by making gifts, we certainly can’t prize perfection, because home made isn’t mass produced with machines. If we’re complicating things by preparing a meal from scratch, we can’t prize efficiency too much. No one wants a microwaved TV dinner for Christmas, however fast it might be. And, if we’re complicating things by purchasing used gifts, we had better not have too much pride. Giving someone a gift that has been used is a little exercise in humility, for the giver, and the givee due to some stigmas created in society.
I think simplifying the holidays here boils down to community, which is messy, time consuming business. I’ve been appreciating this blog lately, and the woman who has been using December to promote community each day. That’s complicating her life, I’m sure. But in a good way.
So, Complicate on folks, it’s only December 5th, and there’s 20 more days for complication left (and 12 more after that if you like to keep on celebrating til Epiphany.)