Is you holiday about getting the cheapest price, securing the rarest limited edition collectible items and competing with others to win the title of champion gift giver? The survival of the fittest mentality and pervasive sense of aggression, competition, ownership, possession, desperation, and impulsive consumption suggests that we need to re-evaluate our American Ideology, and ask ourselves whether our over-zealous, flashy, and often financially irresponsible “holiday spirit” truly reflects charity, or something more complex and far darker. The charitable spirit of the season reflects a time when humans traditionally faced very real scarcity of vital resources – food, shelter, warmth, water, fire, animals to hunt or slaughter, plants to forage or harvest – and they needed to collectively create an insurance network that would prevent dissent into chaos as more and more good families ran out of key resources, and began to revert to wild, fight or flight responses in desperation. Stealing, aggression, and violence emerged only when their needs were ignored, and those who still had stores kept the excess for themselves. This season is about sharing what we have to prevent one another from sliding into homelessness, poverty, starvation, deprivation, and scarcity. Gifts are used to recalibrate social and psychological balance between two individuals who can enhance one another’s wealth, prevent suffering or exchange one needed resource for another. Charity is about giving to those who need; but it is also about giving what is sustainable – not the excessive, unaffordable, financially reckless gestures that we feel pressured into performing because charity has been made into a competitive sport to increase profits. Think about your options, and choose gifts that enhance the stability, beauty, connectedness, and emotional bond in your relationships. Do not turn you into a frenzied, desperate consumer; Charity is not about suffering – true charitable acts feel good, and trade personal excess for affection, love, and a reciprocal promise to share with one another
The American spirit of competition pervades every facet of our lives, and in recent years an unhealthy, obsessive, unsustainable, and culturally destructive mentality has infiltrated even the most sacred aspects of human life. Ritualistic seasonal celebrations – like Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, and Kwanza – emerged as a defense against the constant decent into primitive aggression and moral depravity created by the traumatic winter/drought season. The natural scarcity of food, water, heat, light, and many other life forms during these cyclical cleansing periods (which made room for new growth by shedding worn out, diseased, non-functional structures that would otherwise become destructive in their overgrown state) impeded human culture for thousands of years because humans could not understand the benevolent, merciful, healing qualities of annual death and rebirth cycles. Not perceiving that this cyclical redistribution of energy remains critical to ecological balance (much like a last resort defense against overpopulation) humans overlooked the very conceptual framework that could save them from their seasonal suffering. The winter/drought season (much like sleep and rest function in neural/physical healing processes) destroys mostly the broken, corrupt, excessive, unsustainable, suffocating, stagnant and overgrown/overpopulated manifestations of life energy that have become redundant, mutated, destructive or simply detrimental to harmony, balance, cooperative co-existence and function. Like an overgrown tree that blocks all light, and kills every seedling below it, humans can become resource sucking monsters, especially when they are overpopulated; however, our unique gift is that we can choose to share and redistribute energy before we become unbearably oppressive and detrimental to the system. The tree cannot prune its branches to let the light in; but we can give others what they need, and we do not. Thus, until humans could emulate this seasonal process by controlling their own excessive hoarding, and sharing surplus wealth, the annual dark age persisted each year. As various cultures replaced some exclusive/individual ownership codes with a higher ethical responsibility compelling generosity/sharing/charity with those who have contributed, but due to circumstance or chance did not reap the same rewards – they finally overcame the yearly dark age that stifled cultural advancement. Through communal stores of surplus wealth, food, and critical resources that could be shared over the coming months, everyone was ensured survival, security, and cultural stability, harmony, and reciprocity. The joy, cheer and warmth of the holidays reflect this interconnectedness and our interdependent nature as human beings. In the end, exclusive ownership of one’s harvest only seemed sensible to those whose crops were not affected by disease, natural disaster, or drought, but it remains painfully obvious that no one could predict, avoid, or circumvent the random hardships and deprivation/scarcity to come.
A dark age often polarizes the gap between rich and poor – but humans posses the “divine gifts” of various spiritual insights brought upon by the cyclical random suffering of seasonal scarcity. Suffering evokes transcendence, inner peace, compassion and eventually, human cultural/physical/spiritual evolution. Like sunrise follows darkness, dark ages can only precede enlightened ones. When humans have evoked or re-discovered this higher purpose (a greater good, a holistic approach to poverty and starvation, interconnectedness, oneness – sometimes personified as a deity or god/goddess), new technological/cultural advancements can be implemented. Our celebrations, though formatted as rituals and practices – are a reminder of our inner darkness and search for light. The holidays evoke symbiotic interconnectedness, and remind us to redistribute wealth/skills/knowledge/resources and share shelter, food, and material goods to fend off the fight or flight desperation and oppression that engender and sustain all evil on this earth.