‘Tis the Season…

In my younger days, I could stride into shops, battle for hours with the crowd to get the best deals and emerge happy and contented.

Gone are those times.

Last Sunday, I went looking for my last Christmas presents. I entered only one mall. One department store, two shops and two hours later, I had bought the necessary, but I was entirely drained out.

To recover, I found a cafe. I sat down, had a cup of green tea and pondered.

On one hand, I was sad: I had to admit I am no longer a spring chicken and I’ve lost my shopping stamina to search for bargains and withstand the frenzy of the crowds.

On the other hand, I wondered whether all my efforts had been worthwhile. Would the people whom I had shopped for really appreciate the gifts that I had bought them? Or would they just nod and smile pleasantly when receiving their presents and then later stuff the things unused into a cupboard to be re-gifted or sent to the Salvation Army later?

Such thoughts then led me to consider how materialistic all of us living in modern society are. Our actual needs aside, we are told by advertising that our lives will not be perfect unless we acquire XYZ, we help fuel the economy by buying what it says we need, we are given stuff that people think we need, we work towards achieving what we desire, we bury ourselves with things that we imagine we need.

When he was still alive, my father was a serial hoarder of junk. He inundated the entire house that my family was living in then with anything from car parts to cheap fourth-hand clothing from Sungei Road. I am not as bad as he. Nevertheless, I still collect certain things: for instance, books. I already possess more books than I will probably read in my lifetime, and I’m still buying and running out of space to store them, despite yearly attempts to cull my collection.

We could all probably exist happily with less. But whether we really desire to live with less and thereby reduce clutter, wastage and our carbon footprint — that is the key. So during this season of giving and gifting, I will mull over the following:

– Throughout history, there have been people, the religious/ascetic types, who have given up material comfort to live simply and focus their lives on meditation and other spiritual pursuits.

– Not long ago, I read online about medical studies in India being done an ancient yogi who is able to survive just on breathing and has not eaten or drunk anything for many years.

– A few years ago, I also read about some Western artist who decided to make a symbolic statement by giving/selling all his material possessions away and burning what he could not to restart life afresh with only the clothes on his back.

Perhaps these examples will inspire me to reduce, reuse, recycle more. Perhaps not… An iPad calls, even though I have two laptops and many notebooks to write on…

Merry Christmas, World…

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