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Dec 12, 2013

"Civilization, in the real sense of the term, consists not in the multiplication, but in the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants. This alone promotes real happiness and contentment, and increases the capacity for services."
---Mahatma Gandhi


It is my firm opinion that Europe today represents not the spirit of God or Christianity but the spirit of Satan. And Satan’s successes are the greatest when he appears with the name of God on his lips. Europe is today only nominally Christian. It is really worshipping Mammon. `It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom.’ Thus really spoke Jesus Christ.
---Mahatma Gandhi


I was appalled -- but not all that surprised -- to see that Christmas decorations had become part of the Halloween displays at CVS this year.  Early birds and worms come to mind.  "The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out" quickly follows. (But, I digress...sort of....)

The Mad Dash really begins on Black Friday as crowds of people stream into stores.  Sometimes pushing and shoving, sometimes actually fighting with others, people race to grab the very latest toys that the gears of unbridled capitalism have ground out -- almost invariably through the outright exploitation of other human beings and the delicate biosphere that sustains Life on this planet.  What in the world does this all have to do with the birth of Jesus Christ, with His gospel of Love, Compassion, and service to the "least among us?"  What do our family rituals of wrapping, then ripping paper and ribbons and bows off more stuff, have with Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Humankind?

Even as a child, what I experienced during the Christmas season, the rampant commercialism and worship of mammon made no sense to me. Sixty plus years later, it still doesn't.

So, although this isn't the first time I've attempted to transform my relationship to the materialism of Christmas, I'm now ready to announcement that I won't be giving or accepting any gifts this year from family and friends this year.  It's clear to me: We all have way too much stuff already.  This is not unrelated to Global Warming, Poverty and Warfare.

So, instead of exhanging gifts, I will be making modest donations to two local non-profits that I believe serve the true Spirit of Christmas.  One, the Stone Soup Cafe operates a unique once a week community meal in Greenfield.  The other, Nolumbeka Project, aims to proclaim the true history, and honor the spiritual and cultural legacy of New England's Native Americans. I invite you to consider similar donations.  (If you have already bought me something, I apologize for not getting to this letter sooner.  I  suggest either returning it -- or giving it to someone who is in real need.)

Although not specifically Christian (the Stone Soup Cafe emerges from the Zen Peacemaker Order), both these groups are grounded in an understanding that Life is Essentially Spiritual and that there is a deep need for a widespread Healing.  Our survival as a species -- and the survival of many other species on this planet -- depends on a revolution of heart and mind, a transformation of the widespread, and mostly unconscious, greed and speed that propels us toward some semblance of Armageddon, individually and collectively.  

Any celebration of the Birth of Christ needs to start with opening our hearts and minds to the true situation we find ourselves in today.  Unless we deeply examine --and then alter --our habits of consumption, we're toast.

Imported from external blog


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Posted: Thursday December 12, 2013, 2:45 am
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LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (79)
Friday December 13, 2013, 12:10 am
Lance, I've just read most of your open letter & am amazed at the importance & the significance of what you say. I entirely agree with you & I also agree with most of Gandhi's remarks in the 2 quotes you've chosen as an introduction to your letter. I'll get back to that small difference of opinion, at a future time, but it is trifling compared to the main content. For the moment, I've made only a cursory reading of your letter, but I felt an overpowering need to write to you immediately. I'll reread it more thoroughly when I've finished this message. For the moment, I just wanted to express my amazement at your views & convictions, which I had no suspicion you held & which I applaud. I'm also amazed & appalled that save a mere accident, a totally random chance, I never would've seen this letter of yours & would've missed out on discovering the important convictions that you hold, your mindset & feelings, the disaster of stupidity we are headed for & your concern about our fate, the writing on the wall being ignored by the illiterate majority, & the urgency of changing our ways. I am very grateful to chance for having enabled me to discover your message & you! You are on my friends' list, but I've had no contact with you whatsoever for quite some time, although I know that there was, initially, necessarily, some connection or community of conviction that 1st brought us together for I do not send/accept friend requests w/out such a link having been discovered or established. I no longer remember what it was. What IS important, tho', is that I was convinced that you were no longer active on C2 & had completely disappeared from the 'community.' Perhaps this is because C2 can be very time-consuming, so I tend to limit myself to the NewsNetwk & my personal messges, which also connect to the news stories I've posted or am following, & provide me with the means of staying in touch with friends with whom I've maintained a bond of varying sorts. I'm not active in any of the groups I belong to: I just don't have the time it takes. I stopped some time ago including you in the messages I send to friends to alert them to an occasional petition or my posts I'd like to promote. Since you didn't come around to note or to comment on any (which have become far less frequent), I'd assumed, as I said, that you, like others, had withdrawn from C2, or simply were not interested. Thus, I was amazed (again) to see the date of your letter & to realize that you're still around! Except for this open letter, how does one get to bump into you INTENTIONALLY on C2? Please let me know. I am profoundly moved by your letter, & the choices you've made & priorities you've set for Xmas. They're truly noble: if only everyone could commit to following your example, instead of taking part in the collective frenzy of shopping amid a nauseating, revolting deluge (it's the same in France) of superfluous merchandise, luxury items or junk, riots of expensive plastic toys, etc that are conveted, dreamed of & longed for wi such earnestness, the obsessive, uncritical quest for which inhabits our compatriots' mental & emotional space to the virtual exclusion of all else, & certainly not a passing thought for the less fortunate or those in truly dire straits; nor an iota of doubt or enquiry concerning the basis, merits, risks or consequences of this outrageous, base materialistic pursuit. This fills me with a feeling of revulsion. Last year, I didn't buy a Xmas tree, though I love having one (we only had a fake 1 when I was a kid; it came out of the top of a closet once/yr), because I couldn't afford it- the prices were incredible: €45- >€100, low-end ones zero looks, too! I survived quite well! (Couldn't afford traditional Xmas in Italy wi my inlaws, either) This yr I did get one, & often hug it- it hasn't been decorated yet. We can only exchange cheap little gifts, chosen nonetheless wi love & care; doesn't matter- we love each other & joy is elsewhere.

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (79)
Friday December 13, 2013, 12:50 am
An addition remark: A couple of years ago, I sent my whole collection of 'Groovy Girl' dolls (5 or 6 of them) to the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Native American Reservation. What is a grown woman doing with a bunch of dolls, anyway? I, too, have fallen into the trap of consumerism, and get attracted & attached to 'things' (how can I help it? I'm American, born & bred), but I'm trying to improve. It cost a small fortune to mail my Groovy Girls from France, but I was so happy I had sent them to little girls whom I imagined overjoyed at receiving them! Another year, after a long moment considering the purchase of a pair of €30 earrings, I left the shop, only to come upon a table of activists from a very well-known charity founded by a wonderful French comedian, Coluche, who was very talented & popular, who saw the inequalities around us & took action on that injustice! (His premature death in a motorcycle accident was a national tragedy.) He founded "les Restos du Cœur" -the Restaurants of the Heart- in which he enrolled the help of some of his celebrity friends and which now has many branches throughout the country & has become an enormous operation: some do serve meals & hot meals, too; most provide cartons & crates of free food to people who cannot afford to feed themselves & their families, & whose numbers have been steadily, dramatically & tragically increasing since the start of this solidarity initiative to make life a little better. Well, I took one look at those activists, pulled out my checkbook, & made out a check in the exact amount of the earrings I had considered buying. I had a far greater feeling of satisfaction!
Activists from other NGOs also have action days at supermarkets & provide shoppers with lists of the type of items that are most needed & most welcome. I always do shopping for them, from the list, along with my own, trying to include at least one item from each category on their list. Because people with nothing, isolated individuals or whole families, don't just need healthy food to survive, like canned tuna or sardines (for the protein) or jam, fruit compote & preserves, but they can't afford toiletries, either, so they need toothbrushes & paste, soap, shampoo. Poor young single mothers need diapers, Pampers, that are quite expensive! There are such degrading attitudes toward the poor, too: let them eat pasta. If you're poor, you're supposed to survive on potatoes & pasta or rice! I buy better things, & I choose the better brand or the organic product, when available. I want them to know that they didn't get the cheapest, lowest quality item because being poor, they don't deserve any better! I feel strongly about this, but my means are limited. I would love to be able to do more to help.

Author

Lance Smith
male, age 68, committed relationship, 4 children
South Deerfield, MA, USA
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