Presence v.s. Presents

Knickknacks cannot replace the presence of a loved one.

There’s a hole in the middle of the table in my living room, and it eats my stuff. I put my hat down on that table and the next day it’s gone forever. I left my phone there once and didn’t get it back for three months.  

This table alone is the home to jars of dried persimmons, a Yahtzee game, a headlamp, a miniature banjo, a water purifier, and so many other trinkets, knickknacks, and tchotchkes I would surely bore you before getting to my point. My point is: if there is so much stuff in your house that you are constantly losing things, you have too much stuff. 

Human ingenuity is a double-edged sword. We’ve discovered fire, domesticated animals, and invented the wheel. We’ve also invented the atomic bomb, Snuggies, and McDonalds. To make the last three seem as useful as the first three, we invented ad campaigns convincing ourselves that we needed them to be happy. The truth is, anyone who owns a bathrobe and can turn it backwards doesn’t need a Snuggie. 

However, our culture requires the gullibility to believe that a Snuggie is somehow better and that if something is thirty percent off there is no reason not to buy it. Consumerism powers our economy, especially this time of year. This is the time of the year when not only the everyday doodads fill my house, but also the snow globes, wreaths, and Santas in every shape and size.

Soon, piles of presents will begin to form under my tree, and I wonder how many of them are destined to a life of cluttering. We are lead to believe that a good present will make someone love us more, and no present at all will lead to a life of loneliness. 

I am not immune to society. I just went Christmas shopping today. I always do my Christmas shopping at The World Market because they have cute, multicultural gifts. When I walked through the doors, ornaments, scarves, candle holders, and all the usual Christmas gifts leapt out at me, but I ignored them and walked all the way to the back of the store. I paced up and down the candy aisles until I had found everyone’s presents. These edible treats won’t be a lasting reminder of how much I love the person, but I would prefer my presence (not presents) to convey my love. 

I would rather spend time with the people I love than have everything money can buy, and I know I’m not alone in this. I believe (and hope) everyone values human interaction over material possessions, but somehow this isn’t always obvious. Maybe if we weren’t always digging through the piles of stuff that fill our houses, we would have time for what really matters. 

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Rosanne December 23, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Ditto and thanks for a kindly reminder
Herby Bell December 25, 2011 at 02:20 PM
No, you're not alone in this and I admire your saying so, Liza. I think your sentiment is a foreshadowing of what our consumer culture will morph into when we can figure out how to regroup and live in a more sustainable and respectful way. Have you seen the movie "Thrive?"
Jim Clifford December 25, 2011 at 07:01 PM
Lisa: you are wise beyond your years. In this media-saturated age, it is refreshing to know there's a young person who realizes that we live in a society that has no concept of what it means to be poor in spirit.
Ryan Teves January 05, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Well said! I struggle with this notion... of how much to give my kids and of how to raise them with the right priorities. When my little girls ask me what I want for Christmas... I answer "your love." They usually say "that doesn't count!" haha. Thanks. Ryan Teves Author of "In Defense of the American Teen"


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