Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Line Has Been Crossed

Every aging generation seems to lament the passing of at least one aspect of what was considered the “good old days.” While I would never advocate going back to the time of no microwaves, flat-screen TVs, or Lipitor, there is one thing from the past that our society could certainly use these days. I’m old enough to remember a time in our nation’s history when we were more religious in a good way (not necessarily more Christian, which is a commonly held misunderstanding). On Sundays when I was a child, nothing was open. No stores, no gas stations, nothing except the local ER in case there was a real life-threatening emergency (as opposed to the drop-in clinic ERs have become nowadays). ATMs hadn’t been invented yet, but even if they had, you wouldn’t have needed cash on a Sunday--there just wasn’t anything open where you could spend money. If you forgot a key ingredient for Sunday dinner, for instance, you couldn’t head down to the local mini-mart, you’d have to borrow from your neighbor instead. Anyone born in the U.S. after 1970 probably can’t conceive of a world without Sunday commerce. While such a situation might seem horribly inconvenient by modern standards, when seemingly anything could be purchased at any time, there were some positive aspects that would bode well for our day and age.

The ban on Sunday commerce in our country evolved over time from the Fourth Commandment, to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, to cease all work and to rest. The pattern for the Sabbath that God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai was that He had created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh. Being omnipotent, I doubt God needed that rest, but we needed the pattern. Unfortunately, our culture has abandoned the notion of a Sabbath rest once a week, working, and buying and selling with the same gusto as we would on any other day of the week. Even if we don’t work on Sunday, we often recreate by employing just as much effort as if we were working. Although I continue to struggle with comprehending the full ramifications of a weekly Sabbath, something surely has been lost by our total lack of its observance.

The god of commercialism in our country was made totally evident recently as we approach the best of American holidays, Thanksgiving. While most of us look forward to stuffing our faces with turkey and all the trimmings, our collective psyche is at the very least directed, however briefly, toward the unwavering fact that most of us have much for which to be thankful. For one day a year, commerce stops and we are encouraged to take stock and be grateful for the blessings in our lives. While a lot of effort goes into the production of, and the cleaning up of, the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, all other work ceases, as family and friends gather to share a meal together and reflect on what’s important in life. Unfortunately, many Americans look past Thanksgiving nowadays to the more coveted highlight of the weekend, Black Friday. Setting aside the day after Thanksgiving as the highlight of retail gluttony is bad enough, but now WalMart has upped the ante.

After suffering through a lengthy season of obnoxious political ads on TV, we are now barraged by advertisements for all the stuff we don’t need for Christmas (which has become perhaps the most totally screwed up holiday of all--but I digress). During a commercial break interrupting one of my favorite shows (I know, use the TIVO), I was appalled and astounded at the revelation that this year WalMart would be open 24 hours on Thanksgiving Day, not on Black Friday, but Thanksgiving Day. This is just unconscionable! What does WalMart have that anyone would possibly need to buy on Thanksgiving? How about their millions of employees, people who must forgo sharing Thanksgiving dinner in order to sell stuff to greedy consumers who can’t wait one day to make a purchase? If this doesn’’t typify the sorry nature of our consumeristic culture, I’m not sure what does.

Rampant commercialism and out-of-control busyness rob humankind from the awareness of something bigger and more important in the universe. A day off, a Sabbath, provides an opportunity to cease activity and reconnect with something beyond ourselves. Perhaps, living radically in our day and age is simply opting out of the madness and the busyness.

Reno, Nevada

PS For those of you who may feel inclined to shoot holes in my argument about the Sabbath with the notion that there’s nothing sacred about Sunday, or that the Sabbath as observed by Judaism is actually on Saturday, I’ve already considered these facts as irrelevant to the point. Also, if you think the solution to observing a Sabbath is going to church, I would suggest that there’s a ton of work that goes into the typical production at the building each Sunday and that the Sabbath is supposed to be about rest, not activity.

No comments:

Post a Comment