[This article originally appeared on Blog Spot and was published here on 2020-11-22]
In recent months I've come to realization that I can buy pretty much any consumer good I really want. True, I can't go down to cherry creek mall and buy the most expensive watch they have, but I've never had much of a taste for luxury anyhow. I can however, head down to the music store and buy any CD I want. Had I the inclination, I could visit Best Buy and purchase any DVD I wanted. The same can be said about a visit to Tattered Cover, my local bookshop and obtain a copy of anything I desired to read. In any case, I could probably get away with doing these things quite often.
The preceding paragraph was not written out of a desire to brag. The fact is, with very little determination and the ability to bend (okay break) a little copyright law, or dare I say, visit your local library you too can have similar ability even when living hand to mouth.
Strange as it may seem, given the ability to own all this media and physical goods, I have recently come to procure less and less of it. In most cases if I want to watch a movie, I'll Tivo it, or watch it on Netflix. If I want to listen to music, more often than not in the pas t few months, I'll visit Pandora. Truth be told, prior to my reunion with Pandora I'd pirated a lot of music, but that activity has greatly slowed recently. Whenever I do want to listen to specific music, I'll acquire it digitally, or at the very least get a CD and immediately rip it to digital format, with the CD itself rarely to be seen again. I also very rarely buy physical books these days. Unless I'm reading something obscure, I almost always read on my Kindle.
Yet, as I look around my apartment I see shelf after shelf of movies I like, but rarely watch. I see bookshelves filled so much that books are stacked in front of other books. The phenomenon continues as I look to my kitchen, filled with gadgets rarely used, and cookbooks rarely opened.
Julia (my wife) and I spent a lot of time today clearing things out and getting rid of a lot of junk we've acquired over the years, and although we have a lot to go, it finally feels more than just clean-- Itt has some semblance of being organized. And yet, a sense of foreboding comes over me as the day after christmas approaches.
Despite my being an atheist, christmas is by far my favorite holiday. I love spending time with family, eating, drinking and talking. I love the spirit of giving and honest camaraderie. I love to see the expressions on everyone's faces when they get something they really wanted. I even really love the feeling I get when I myself open a really creative and unique gift I hadn't even thought of buying myself, or that one thing I was really hoping for.
That said, I have in some ways come to dread the day after christmas. When I come home, much of the revelry has passed and I have got a brand new batch of stuff to layer atop my existing possessions. Its not that I don't like them, its that I really hate storing them. I live in a small condo and really don't want to "upgrade"my housing just to accommodate more stuff.
At the same time, I've come to realize of late that I get much more enjoyment out of doing things than having things. I really enjoyed the last couple books I read, but I enjoy discussing such books with people almost more than reading. I enjoy listening to music, but I most enjoy hearing new music a friend recommended, or going to a concert (either classical or rock). Overall, I've found that more happiness comes from gaining memories rather than possessions. I've even seen a lot of research to back up that proposition. On that note, I have the following suggestions to gift givers out there:
* If you're going to give some kind of media give the digital kind, if the recipient is like me and is so inclined. * Instead of giving someone an art book, offer to visit your favorite museum with them, or buy them a membership. * Instead of giving someone a DVD, buy them some movie tickets and offer to join them. * In lieu of a CD, offer to take someone to a concert, play, musical, or symphony. * Rather than giving a cookbook or gadget, invite your recipient over to cook something with you or clip a few of your own favorite recipes.
Sure, there are many out there who like getting stuff for christmas. I know when I was younger and had a severe shortage of stuff, I would have been disappointed if my christmas consisted of things from the above list. Also, many times a physical gift really is best. If you are endowed with amazing talent at creating or finding unique gifts, keep it up. A place can always be found for something truly heartfelt or amazing. But if your christmas shopping typically consists of a visit to the mall, best buy, or a web superstore, and you can't figure out what to give to your Wookie friend when he already owns too many combs (see this video) , give the above list a shot.