THE LONG VIEW: Holiday ‘greed’ aside, go out and smell the pine

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Pat Grimes New pic.jpg

In 1962, Pulitzer Prize winner Howard Nemerov wrote a poem titled, “Santa Claus.”  Part of it follows.

Somewhere on his travels the strange Child

Picked up this overstuffed confidence man,

Affection’s converted thief, who climbs at night

Down chimneys, into dreams, with this world’s goods.

Bringing all the benevolence of money,

He teaches the innocent to want, thus keeps

Our fat world rolling…

 

In 1962, Pulitzer Prize winner Howard Nemerov wrote a poem titled, “Santa Claus.”  Part of it follows.

Somewhere on his travels the strange Child

Picked up this overstuffed confidence man,

Affection’s converted thief, who climbs at night

Down chimneys, into dreams, with this world’s goods.

Bringing all the benevolence of money,

He teaches the innocent to want, thus keeps

Our fat world rolling…

 

Now, at this season when the Child is born

To suffer for the world, suffer the world,

his bloated Other, jovial satellite

And sycophant, makes his appearance also

In a glitter of goodies, in rock candy glare….

This annual Savior of the economy

Speaks in the parables of the dollar sign:

Suffer the little children to come to Him…

 

Merchandising analysts say the number of folks scooping up sale prices on Black Friday this year was equal to the count of shoppers in 2015. Obviously, we the people know best how our nation can heal from its political hangover — retail therapy.

Still, as the thoroughfares around shopping malls become congested, postal carriers and package delivery drivers labor until after dark to distribute parcels to their proper recipients, and every aisle of every store is clogged by patrons whose arms overflow with merchandise, I suspect our culture has again chosen to embrace consumption, and not the more timeless aspects of the upcoming holiday. We are consistent.

Celebrated around the world, the day marked by some as that of the Savior’s birth is a contemporary exercise in acquisition and excess. Seemingly our merriment is all about the tokens we exchange.

Sometimes our traditions include a nod to those in need; perhaps we collect canned goods for the local food bank or write a check to an organization promising to provide food, shelter, or opportunity to the less fortunate. Just seven days after the 25th, however, we return to self-satisfied reverie, lifting a glass to our own health and happiness in the New Year.

I don’t know how to change that. We human beings are a fickle lot, prone to distraction, fear, and the hoarding of creature comfort, even if it comes at the expense of our brothers and sisters. But I do know the things we buy for one another do not fill our emptiness or ease our longing to be closer to one another.

As long as we’re quoting great literature, let’s hear from Dr. Seuss. Following the Grinch’s thievery on Christmas Eve, he pauses atop Mt. Crumpet to hear Whoville’s citizens react mournfully to Christmas morning without the material trimmings. Hearing joyful singing from the Whos instead, the Grinch was perplexed.

“He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”

Here’s hoping your Christmastime includes that same epiphany and your heart grows three sizes that day. May your holidays be spent savoring time with those you care for, and may 2017 see you appreciating them all year long.

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at grimespat19@gmail.com

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