Every year around this time, I always have a renewed desire to share what I’m about to share. I just love this quotation. It’s a good one. And it blows my mind that whenever I Google it, even to this day, it’s so hard to find on the internet. Currently, it shows up as being on only one other website besides this one. Amazing. Anyhow, I’ll cut to the chase. Here it is:
“The multiple threats to the Earth are so complex that in most cases they seem beyond the reach of an average citizen’s influence. Yet we can all launch a personal campaign to reduce consumption — though perhaps only after a change of mindset, to overcome the fear of seeming poor, parsimonious or eccentric.
This does not mean being deprived or uncomfortable. It simply means stopping to think, before each purchase, ‘Do I really need this?’ For years a small minority has been living and thinking thus. If a large majority did likewise — if frugality and shabbiness could become trendy — then the Earth though not saved, would be measurably less endangered.” — Dervla Murphy, Irish touring cyclist and author
Every time I’ve shared this quotation, I’ve gotten positive feedback. Still, I don’t think people really get it. Here’s one example. Years ago, someone gave me a very nice wrapped holiday gift. It was a Christmas ornament that opened up to reveal chocolates inside. They were really quite good! This person obviously has great taste. No pun intended. Anyhow, I shared the above quotation with that individual –as a way of sharing why I personally choose to abstain from participating in traditions involving gift-giving. She said she liked it very much, thanked me for it and said she was going to share it with someone else she felt would appreciated it. She said she agreed with the sentiment and told me she asks family members to instead give to charity, rather than buy her a gift. So she gets it, right?
Well, not really. If you glance inside her office this time of year, you can’t help but notice it’s always filled to the gills with gifts. Gifts everywhere. To other people. From other people. All are wrapped. Some are in bags. Some are on shelves. They’re everywhere.
By the way, I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I think this also demonstrates why, as I like to say, “I listen with my eyes, not my ears.”
Once my brother’s daughter and son had reached a certain age, that was when I just stopped buying gifts. Period. They were the only ones I had still bought gifts for. But when they reached a particular age, I decided I was going to start living in accordance with my values and beliefs.
Long ago, I bought the domain name WhyNoGift (dot com), with the intention of setting up a simple web page devoted to sharing the above quotation, along with some personal thoughts. I thought it would be a nice way to be able to “give” something to someone when they hand me a gift: “Oh, thank you so much! That was so very thoughtful. Can I give you something in return? I would like to share with you a web page I put up years ago. It’s my gift to you. It contains one of my most favorite quotations.”
Incidentally, I no longer own that domain. I’ve long since let my ownership of it elapse. And have no desire to ever buy it again.
Besides, now I can refer people to this blog post instead.
Another thing that comes to mind while sharing this quotation is something one of my Hofstra University English professors pointed out once. She said (and I’m paraphrasing): “Children have such powerful imaginations. You don’t need to buy a toddler a fancy toy that resembles a house. An ordinary cereal box will do.” You can picture that, can’t you? With doors and windows that actually open and close? She said that’s what they did back in her day. Through the prism of their imagination, that cereal box (with the aid of scissors, etc.) could be transformed into a car, a bus, a train, a bridge, a skyscraper, or whatever.
Why do I bring tis up? Because lots of people believe that where children are concerned, at least, keep those gifts coming! Don’t stop! Christmas is for children.
But I really believe we need to change our thinking in that regard.
Let me put it this way. I appreciate so much that I had loving parents. That they bought us (me and my siblings) lots of toys. That they did that out of love. But that said, at the same time, I can’t help but wonder how my life might have been different had we not been raised in that way. Had we been raised very differently. In ways that emphasized deep appreciation for things other than material things. And de-emphasized consumerism, in general. (I realize there’s so much more that can be said here about how this might look in practice, but that’s more a subject for an hours-long podcast, or a book.)
Moreover, I wonder what kind of world we’d be living in today, if that had been the norm, on a planetary scale.
It’s also ironic. Because while many people think of Christmas as being for the young, for the tiny tots, guess what? Not only are they the ones who would benefit the most if we break out of that mold, they are also the ones who would surely suffer the most, if we don’t. Perhaps that’s why . . .
I’m dreaming of a non-materialistic Christmas.
This might also be a perfect example of where by giving less, you’re actually giving so much more. And that’s something those tiny tots will probably thank you for when they’re old enough to understand that while Santa Clause isn’t real, deforestation, species extinction, pollution, rising sea levels and global warming, most definitely are!