Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

"Black Friday" is a challenge to one's spirit, isn't it?

As we emerge from our feast-induced slumber, all enumerations of our blessings flee from our minds, but one: we have might have an unmaxed out credit card somewhere.  Off to the mall!  Start the Christmas shopping now!

It's a challenge to keep up the gratitude, that sense of well-being in the world, that family and friends and love are enough, that we felt on Thanksgiving.

Black Friday is now big news.  Thanksgiving was slow news day, so the TV news would fill the time with stories about the hopes of retailers for the Christmas season.  First, came the Early Bird Sales, which soon escalated to Door Buster sales.  Then the news folks started interviewing shoppers/campers in the parking lots. The sales got bigger. The crowds got bigger.  And as many as enjoyed the frenzy of the shopping, there were as many at home, tut-tutting and fretting about how awful all this was.  Even cheaper fun

But Events always prove my mother right, who often said, "this will go to far, and somebody is going to end up crying."  Which this year, was literally true.  Keeping in the spirit of the season, a woman in a Los Angeles Walmart, pepper-sprayed other shoppers to clear a path to the bargains in the electronics department.   I guess she took seriously the Fox News comment that "pepper spray is a food product, essentially."

I am challenged to keep an open heart to all those whose attitudes toward shopping, consumption and holiday-making are different than my own.  For some, Black Friday is fun; for some, it is practical and economical; for others, it is efficient.  Shopping done, they enjoy the rest of the holidays. Who am I to judge what other people need or want?

We are encouraged in our consumer culture to judge other people by what they buy, by how they shop, and by how they consume.

OK, I try to keep an open heart, but sometimes, it is more of a challenge.

I count gratitude and empathy as some of the essential virtues of the liberal religious path.  Gratitude has been said to be the source of all religious feeling.  If you think about everything that had to fall into place for you to even be here, you have to be humbled and awed.  Call it blessed by God, born under a good sign, or just dumb luck, you have to be grateful.

Empathy is making the effort to see yourself in other people, especially people you don't understand.  It's an imaginative leap.  It's not the same as knowing the truth about someone, but it stops you from distancing yourself from them.   There are limits, of course.  I am having trouble imagining why anybody would use pepper spray in a shopping situation. 

Black Friday is the beginning of the turn toward Christmas.  It is the unofficial start of Advent, the season when we allow ourselves to think that something wonderful might yet happen.  It is the season when we let gratitude and empathy soften our cynical and fatalistic hardness.  It may yet be that not everything will end in tears.  Let us hope so.  Let us just hope.

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