Merry Christmas

An Un-Merry Christmas

I created this image some time ago and it is one of my most downloaded. I have no idea who buys it, such is the world of stock photography. I can only hope that it’s published in a context that jells with my initial conceptual intention. As much as I like the adjective “merry”, to me it projects an image of a tall, elaborately ornamented Christmas tree, anchored with a tremendous amount of brightly colored, gift-wrapped presents. It is, therefore, a great symbol of much of what has gone awry with how we define happiness.

It’s almost December and the multinationals are tooting their horns louder and more frequently, prompting us to once again pony up our hard-earned, unscrupulously taxed income to buy more stuff, so they can fill their coffers and keep Wall Street blissfully happy…

Like most folks, I am a hypocrite. I do not live as I preach. But these days, I try hard to make conscious, eco-friendly decisions whenever and wherever I can. Especially when it’s time to actually consume. I don’t always succeed. Probably not even close to as much as I should or could. For I am weak and addicted to a lifestyle nurtured for over five decades. And so, I often take the easy, instantly gratifying route, instead of seeking out a level of fulfillment that would not only provide me with longer-lasting satisfaction but also be better for the planet.

Climate change, global warming, and the planet’s health issues do not seem to be part of the discourse here in Vietnam. Which is no big surprise. Most folks here can’t afford such seemingly lofty luxuries whilst in survival mode. The same goes for the rest of the developing world.

What is considerably more surprising and worrisome, though, is how the vast majority of people that at least theoretically can both grasp the seismic challenges our species must confront to reverse the awaiting cataclysmic, planetary havoc, and have the practical and financial means to do so, are just turning a blind eye. I obviously include myself among these blind-eye, nay-sayers.

As I view it, the main challenge with reining in rampant consumerism, which includes both stuff we buy for our bodies and homes, as well as food, is the belief that only by continuing our perverse indulgences, can we achieve happiness. In other words, we need to figure out how to be happier with less and yet increase our satisfaction through long-lasting, fulfilling experiences – rather than living life within a sickly cycle of instant gratification – fueled through constant over-consumption of crap – and feeding our bodies with environmentally insane food and drink choices with dubious health advantages.

I think the secret sauce to a successful reversal lies within being focused and intellectually mindful about every choice we make as consumers, and stop making purchases habitually or ritualistically – or, even worse, allowing us to be influenced by anybody or anything other than what our hearts and minds can deduce independently, if we just think a little beforehand. If we simply envision the chain of events that lead up to how or what we choose came into existence – as well as the unavoidable aftermath it generates – we could collectively become a powerful force, and lead by example, a more sustainable life.