Sunday, December 5, 2010

Black Friday and Purple Sunday

Quite a few years ago, new to San Francisco, I was finishing up Thanksgiving Dinner when I remarked to my hosts that I thought I would go into the city the following day “Oh my god, don’t do that!” came the aghast reply. It was explained to me that “the whole world” went shopping the day after Thanksgiving, that traffic would be a snarl and that whatever I had in mind would better be put off until the following Monday.

I now wonder where I had been -- if perhaps on Mars -- for I had honestly never heard of such a thing. Of course, it was true. The following day, traffic was backed up on both bridges into the City as “le toute monde” inched along towards the Temples of Stuff. But I had never in my life thought of Thanksgiving as the starting line for a shopping frenzy.

On the contrary. In the Christian calendar, Thanksgiving ushers in the First Sunday in Advent, which is a time for existential penance when we remember, after our blessings, the inadequacies of our existence.

Advent begins with an acknowledgement of our essential needfulness and the emptiness of even those lives that are fulfilled in their material well-being. A bountiful harvest, for which we may be duly thankful, is necessary but not sufficient. For a fortnight, with due paradox, altars are draped in purple.

Most religions recognize this spiritual fact. It is not a question of atonement, but rather a species of regret and longing. Within the multi-layered symbolism of Christianity, the resolution of our waiting is the birth, within poverty, of the Light of the World, which is sacrifice for others.

And yet, the “beauty in poverty” of the Advent season has been replaced with an Abduction which holds captive Israel ransom to the balance sheet of profit. We are told by a thousand whispering and blaring voices from a thousand corners that the emptiness of our lives will be sated by more consuming. Something missing? Buy more!

Like junk food, junk infotainment, junk politics and even junk religiosity, it leaves us fat, hungry and all the poorer.

It is an obscenity which must be snuffed out before lighting a better candle.

©WCG, 2010

No comments: