Friday, November 27, 2015

It’s that time of year again: Staying sane in the mad, mad world of Christmas.



Someone said to me yesterday (when I asked how they were), that they were “so busy … with Christmas and everything” and they “feel really stressed”. 

Insane.

Here we are, at the start of the New Zealand summer – a time for cruising into a holiday break; relaxing with friends and family; topping up our vitamin D3 in the abundant sunshine … and people feel “stressed” because Christmas is only X amount of weeks away and “oh I have so much to do!!”

WHY?!

It is utter insanity that the country begins to run around in a state of panic leading up to a day where they more often than not, gorge themselves on copious amounts of food and drink that (more often than not) they do not need or cannot even afford anyway.  It blows my mind!
I feel sorry for my kids in some ways because they have both a mother and a father, neither of who are particularly “Christmassy” and they have grown up aware that this goes against the mainstream programme of spend, spend, spend because you have to!  They are now however (as young adults), well aware of the ridiculousness that Christmas is. 
Do not get me wrong – I enjoy and respect the idea of families spending time together (particularly if it is a rarity – which if your kids are older and spread out geographically, it often is), in a genuine display of family altruism.  
What I really do not dig through, is families (such as one of my neighbours), who yell at, scream at and verbally abuse their young kids all year, and then as Christmas begins to approach, they use Christmas to manipulate them even further; threaten them with cancellation of it, no Christmas presents and other things that a young child who has been programmed into believing he/she gets gifts for “being good” and would hold as a highlight to his/her year (as do most kids perhaps!).
Christmas does not need to be a large outlay of money on excessive food and gifts that serve no real purpose.  Have a picnic! Go to the beach! Leave your cell phones at home …TALK to each other! Yes … talking is still a valid form of communication apparently!  Cap spending on gifts to $10 each – MAKE gifts/food items for each other! Is not the whole point of Christmas actually to spend time with family and people important to us?
We live in a society shaped and moulded by mainstream media.  Christmas is the most intensely marketed time of the year - period.  People spend more than they can afford at this time; finance companies offer more “deals” at this time of the year to encourage spending which leaves the spender burdened with debt – often until the following Christmas, making payments, and then the cycle can start again compounding not only the interest but the issue.  
The big companies get in on the bandwagon too! Noel Leeming, Harvey Norman, The Warehouse … they are ALL guilty of roping people in to burden them with debt.  Advertising goes on steroids … “no payments till 2018 then 36 months to pay” Insanity! It lulls people into a false sense of security … then BAM! They have to start repaying all the money they owe to these various places and it all starts coming in at the same time.  “Buy new furniture, appliances, devices … buy, buy, buy, NOW!”
WHY? Because it’s Christmas (of course) – treat yourself!
We are disconnected from ourselves and so we spend, which only continues the disconnect. Madness. 
And it’s encouraged!  It is a symptom of our society – the programming – that we need to please people by spending lots of money on them; that we are “good” if we buy other people gifts, and we are “good” if we receive them.  Drop the expectation and tap into what is real. 
Christmas is a deception anyway – it should be an attitude – not a time of the year. 

Stop the insanity!
  • ·      Limit Christmas spending – there is NO need to produce elaborate meals or feed people you cannot afford to feed, or buy gifts you cannot afford to buy
  • ·      Reduce the pressure on family by capping spending on gifts for each other
  • ·      Have a picnic or a pot luck meal together
  • ·      Go to the beach – its summer!
  • ·      Spend time not money on your kids
  • ·      Spend time not money with significant people in your lives
  • ·      If you do wish to spend larger amounts of money on someone, think before you do – is it going to last? Are the materials recyclable? Could it be passed on to someone else when the novelty wears off?  Do they really need it?
  • ·      Do not buy into the marketing machine that IS Christmas
  • ·      Hand-make gifts
  • ·      Keep cell phones turned OFF on Christmas day – make it a family rule
  • ·      Talk to each other – catch up without electronic devices or social media
  • ·      Go for a walk somewhere beautiful – there are glorious walkways in New Zealand that will be all but empty on Christmas day!
  • ·      Share the job of food preparation

The list is limitless.  The point comes back to the person who exclaimed how stressed and busy they were because it’s nearly Christmas – you do not have to buy into the insanity.  It’s programming.  Break out of the programme and breathe.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Are you living … or existing?

There comes a time when we are faced with our own mortality.  When the light switches on and we realise life in the body - as we know it - is finite, there seems to be an urgent need to experience things.  Interestingly, many people go from being collectors of “stuff” (status symbols and the like), to collectors of experiences, and these manifest in the form of “bucket lists” through which people mark their final decades, or sometimes their final months.  I find it an interesting concept that people wait until the end of their lives to truly start living.  The social construction of societal norms renders it problematic to truly live in this world; rather, people often merely exist.  The cycle begins early – at around five in New Zealand – when children are sent off to school.  In Nepal where I recently spent several weeks, many children do not attend school.  You could argue this is an indication of the poverty of the country and how can they “better’ themselves if they do not have education?  However, when you take a step back and see it for what it is, the children who do not go to school, stay within the family and help develop the land with their parents and eventually taking over from the parents in order to look after them – and the cycle repeats.
They are reported to be amongst the happiest people on the planet – yet by our standards they have “nothing”.
 In an “educated” society, children are programmed from the age of five, to study hard to get a job to earn money to pay for things like houses (that they purchase with imaginary money but pay for through the mortgage system with their hard-earned real money).  And the cycle repeats until they are sixty or seventy-ish and then realise that time is running out! They exist merely to support the system.
The Nepalese child who stays within the family fold, helping to produce food to feed the family is possibly more authentic in his or her lifestyle than any person living on the treadmill within the neo-constructivist society.
The system is simply not set up to allow people to truly live.  It is set up to force people to rely on a monetary system in order to realise their dreams of “freedom” and independence, rather than teaching them that everything they need to be a happy engaged contributing individual is within them.  I am not advocating a return to a primitive society, but I am advocating less of a reliance on the current system. The main problem that stops people really thinking about this is fear; fear of doing without all the “goodies” and comforts of modern society.  Fear of doing without the devices; the status symbols (my GOD! How would anyone know how important I am if I cannot show it off through my flash car and house?!); the identity gained through work (you are NOT your job remember).  Fear of being somehow “left behind”; fear of missing out (FOMO); meanwhile we do not live … we exist. 
We hear it all the time don’t we … “work-life balance”.  We are programmed into thinking we cannot have life (or draw on our “experiencing life” account) unless we have first built up a work stockpile against which we can draw. That’s how society thinks.  Society also frowns on people who make the deliberate decision not to buy into that system.  We also label those people with names like ‘free-loader’,  ‘socially irresponsible’, ‘bludger’ (don’t get me wrong – I am not talking about the people who make a conscious decision NOT to work just so they can live off the support of the tax-payer), or sometimes we simply label them as loners, weird, alternative, “greenies”… the list goes on.  You see, we are lead to believe that anything outside of the norm of the ‘eat, work, sleep, repeat’ cycle, is socially unacceptable. 
I do believe that having a feeling of contributing somehow to society adds value to a person’s day.  I do not support notions of laziness, for example; I do not support living off others (however that’s EXACTLY what the people at the top of this system are doing); I do not support using people for one’s own ends.

I am writing this because I know that I too am trapped inside this cycle; that I am in a situation of “having to” (or do I really?) work.  Then I ask myself  “what am I really working for?” The simple answers such as “money – you idiot” can be justified with “yeah I have a mortgage and bills to pay”, but then I cannot justify much else really except that I know for me personally, living is the experiencing of the world in this body I have been given to experience it through.  When I go out of here, my mortgage, my bills, my job title, my degrees, my car, my house … none of it will matter.  
What will matter is how I lived; how I gave of myself; how I treated people around me; that I lived, not merely existed.