Too much, too little, just enough

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

Thanksgiving once again. This has always been the simple holiday, the one to get together with family and friends to eat nostalgia.

It’s often about eating too much.

Which brings me to:
Thanksgiving is first of all an idea: the idea of thanking others, or Nature or God/Goddess or Lady Luck for the plenty in your life. Or, if you don’t have enough to be thankful for, you can be grateful for something – a sunny day. Or if you don’t have family or friends or the means to buy and fix your own Thanksgiving, and the sun never shines in your life, there are churches and restaurants and organizations across the land that invite you to join them as their guest for dinner.

For any who can’t ask for or accept help, Thanksgiving is nothing but another day in the long grind of existence. If you can, these are the folks you find, you ferret them out so you can invite them to your place or take them out to dinner or drop dinner off wherever they live – home or homeless camp.

I know that our civilization right now is about buying stuff. It’s a habit of being that we have “been carefully taught.”* It’s not the point of living.

Since World War II, the admen representing capitalism have worked on us so that we have come to believe that buying stuff is the point. What’s the saying – “He who dies with the most toys wins”? Malcolm Forbes, one of the wealthiest fellows in our history of accumulating, said that. He died. Is he the winner?

The idea that more and more accumulation of stuff is a good thing is pure hogwash; it is a remark from a rich guy who thought it witty.

But we’re living that behavior.

A sign of our times is the storage unit. These giant lockers for our goods were built at first for situations in which people were between houses – stationed out of country, building a place while living in a trailer; in other words, it was a good idea for temporary storage. Now, every little burg has a storage center on the edge of town, and every city has dozens of these sites throughout. These storehouses are full of things people don’t have room for in their homes but can’t bring themselves to give away. Many people die never looking at the stuff again.

As my friend T. said with a bit of exasperation, “Really… there are people who have no roof over their head and others who rent roofs to put over their stuff.”

It’s a form of greed.

Partly because of the climate crisis already upon us, partly because of waking up psychically burdened by the accumulation of stuff in our lives, partly because of the chasm between the one percent on top (each of whom has a net worth upwards of $10 million), and the rest of us who need to subscribe to “dqydj” – (don’t quit your day job) – things are changing, mindsets are being nudged, the film is being lifted from our eyes.

There is a movement afoot to get out – or just leave behind – the idea of stuff and the stuff itself. The generic movement – in some minds a groundswell – is the simple daring of just moving on to the new idea of having enough. Just enough. It’s a whole different mindset from “Well, maybe just one more thing.” Which probably means you have at least one storage unit.

And way too much food on the table tomorrow.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, whether a just-enough one or the overabundant kind. (If the latter, invite strangers.)

*A line from a song in the 1949 musical “South Pacific” about being taught racism; in my case above, it’s about being taught shopping.

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