Okay, lets see…,
Bananas, Grapes, Celery, Carrots, (radishes? mmmm, yeah) Radishes, Cantelope, (next aisle) Grated and (oooh, munster’s on sale) Block Cheese, Pepperoni, (next aisle) Crackers, Tortillas, Rice, (next aisle, am I out of honey? peanut butter? what about pasta sauce? ummm…,) Pasta Sauce, (next aisle….,
What — is — THIS!?
There is halloween candy as far as the eye can see in my local grocery and it’s only AUGUST!
— taking a deep breath…. ….and release —
What I am not going to do is rant about how retailers always put out holiday merchandise far too early. Although such diatribes are a time-honored tradition, I have come to feel that they miss the point. Appearances to the contrary, the problem here is not just one of crass consumerism.
The problem is us.
We have become a people of the moment. We want ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ happens to be, and we want it now. We don’t like to be kept waiting. We don’t want to make sacrifices or to go without. We are owed. We are entitled.
I see it daily: grown men and women throwing tantrums like the most petulant of children because they had to wait for someone to help them, or because they couldn’t get exactly what they wanted, when they wanted it.
The collective will of the people demands an immediacy of experience, and the universe, through technology, industry and consumerism, has bowed to that desire.
Bowed, I think, almost to the point of breaking.
In shaping the universe to our whim, we have built a society that sees no value in delayed gratification.
I have begun to wonder, if the exploration of the distance between wanting a thing and the having of it, does not have a central role in our ethical underpinnings. Does the steady decrease in the space between ‘want’ and ‘have’ equate to some species of moral decay?
I have several friends and acquaintances who are (and it pains me to say this) thieves. They do not break into peoples homes or pick their pockets on the street. Instead they spend their evenings downloading bootleg copies of movies and TV shows. The rational I hear from them is that they don’t want to wait until the movie is released on video to watch it, or, they don’t want to wait until they can afford to buy it.
They want it and the space between wanting the thing and saving the money to buy it was too great for them. If possession is just a few keystrokes away, why should they have to wait?
Never mind that they dishonor themselves in the process. Never mind that by doing what they do, they encourage the industry to raise the prices of its content for everyone else. “If you were smart,” my friends tell me, “you’d steal it too.”
Take another look at my grocery list above.
Our grandparents could likely remember a time when they might go shopping and only find a few of the fruits and vegetables listed, because those were the only ones that were currently ‘in-season’. These days we find it hard to fathom such a world. We have become so used to having every sort of produce we might want, available to us any time we want, day or night, Summer or Winter, that we forget that fruits and vegetables can only be harvested at certain times of the year. Most of what we are buying is shipped and flown in from all over the world. The cost, in global pollution generated, to keep tomatoes and oranges on the grocery shelves 24/7/365 is frightening to comprehend.
Is it worth it?
I won’t deny that it’s nice to be able to pick up some apples whenever I want them. How much better would they taste, how much more sweet would they be, if I had to wait until the fall when they are actually in-season?
I would argue that there is often a great value in waiting.
That value may be personal, as in that first burst of taste you experience as your teeth pierce the viridescent skin of a Granny Smith for the first time in months. Or the value could extend far beyond one’s self, to a reduction of your carbon footprint, or even the promotion of a more selfless means of interacting with the world.
Our ancestors, I think, knew the value in waiting.
The coming celebration, which the Celts called Samhain and modern society has transformed into Halloween, was a celebration of the final harvest of the year. In a manner of speaking, every day that passed after Lughnasadh, every day spent toiling in the fields, or herding the flocks from the high to the lowlands, every moment of building and storing and preserving that went on in preparation of the coming winter, was working toward Samhain. The celebration itself was as much about the wait as it was the final culmination of community efforts towards a common goal.
What possible significance can a celebration based of waiting and preparation have in a society so focused on Instant Gratification? More than once I have heard from those of my fellow Pagans, born and raised in urban environments, that the traditional holy days, based as they are on an agricultural cycle, have little meaning to them.
In our quest for ever greater convenience we have stripped away our sense of time and place, and in doing so, we have endangered even our spiritual connection to the natural world.
It is up to us to win that connection back, to say ‘NO’ to a culture that claims that we can have whatever we want, whenever we want it, at someone else’s expense.
We can choose to live our lives ‘In Season’, knowing our limits and accepting that those things which are out of our reach will come to us in their own proper time and place. Or we can take the easier road and continue to live like locusts, consuming whatever is put in front of us with never a thought as to where it came from or who was harmed in getting it here.
The supermarket suppliers are counting on us to take the easy road. Rest assured they have cases of orange and black wrapped candy sitting in their stockrooms, waiting to replace what’s already sitting on the shelves. They’re counting on you to eat the first few bags yourself, long before Halloween comes round. They know you’ll be back to buy more…, and more.
And why shouldn’t you indulge yourself now.
What is the value in waiting?