Today is Black Friday, the pinnacle of American-style consumerism and all that has gone wrong with the elusive pursuit of happiness. I was looking at a poem this morning I wrote 22 years ago on my first Christmas Day in America after watching my host family bombard each other with presents stacked almost to the ceiling. Obviously, my German compatriots are far from being non-materialistic, and in some ways even more so. But I had never been witness to such extreme attention to the exchange of stuff. In a way, it felt like the “Super-Size Me” of gift-giving, and it was quite overwhelming to the senses.
I replaced some of the gadgets that were popular back then with more contemporary ones, but other than that, not much has changed. As you’ll read I think you’ll find that this is actually a hopeful poem, because I truly believe that the intentions and motivations underneath the consumerism are rooted in the most noble human trait of giving to one another. My sincere hope is that in the face of shrinking resources, economic hardship and climate change we will wake up to the wealth of gifts inherent in our hearts and souls so readily available and waiting to be passed on without ever spending a penny or touching a piece of plastic packaged in more plastic.
THE END OF THE YEAR
It’s the end of the year.
I’m glad it’s not the end of the line.
Or the end of my luck.
Or the end of your beauty.
No, it’s the end of all the fantastic sales,
the shelves filled with i-phones, -pods, -knobs and -clocks indicating the exact end of the year.
And don’t worry!
All the gadgets will be back next year,
just a bit shinier and somewhat modified,
so we can do it all over.
I need new shoes! I need more DVDs! I need more anything!
I’ll give you the double-headed remote control shaver so you will no longer be able to ignore my call for the next generation Wii I’ve so passionately been yearning for.
I love you.
I’ve been saving all my love to give to you,
here, at the end of the year.
Or the end of time.
Or the end of my love.
I will graciously accept your gift, or cash, or paypal transfer — but I will refuse it at first, or at least be thoroughly flattered, as if to signal that I never expected such generosity on your part.
It’s the end of the year,
the time to inventory our unbalanced emotional budget.
Time to mourn the lost year.
But I’m happy!
I can drop my sarcasm like an actor his mask.
I can go out into the rain and breathe the cold winter air.
There is no end.
And no beginning.
The air counts no years.
And the rain is my friend.
I love you.
Even without the iPhone.