emanix: (emanix)
Subtitle: Seriously, please don't buy me gifts.
---

Dear Peoples,

This year (as I have for the past several years) I am declaring my house a Christmas Free Zone. I am excusing myself from participating in a pointless cultural habit.

Some of it is ideological: I am neither a Christian, a Pagan, nor a Capitalist, and while I think it's nice knowing that Isaac Newton was born on the 25th of December, I think he would appreciate the sentiment of my doing nothing at all to celebrate this fact, because he simply isn't around to see it.

Some of it is more practical: After almost a decade of short-term living situations and an entire year of living out of backpack, the idea of acquiring more Stuff gives me an almost-physical pain. I can't help imagining carrying the extra weight of this new item, whatever it is, or doing the calculation in my head, working out which thing in my already full to capacity backpack I will have to give away, destroy, or otherwise leave behind in order to accommodate this new uninvited guest, however small.

Yes, I have a house right now, but my intention is to sell up and go back to being nomadic in the future. Every gift I receive now will have to be either carried or disposed of in the intervening time, and it hurts my heart to receive beautiful things knowing I can't keep them.

I'm not a complete grinch. I don't want to spoil anyone else's fun. I just question how much 'fun' is really involved in the rituals of compulsory gift-giving, emotional blackmail and gluttony that go alongside a traditional celebration of... what? The birth of a prophet who preached poverty, self-immolation and charitable giving? The turning of the seasons?
Why not, then, spare a thought instead for folks who are less well off? Perhaps those who are out in the cold. Rather than indulging in ridiculously high calorie foods, making oneself miserable, or at best uncomfortable, with overindulgence, why not give the whole damn lot to a food bank? Why not the gifts too? Instead of buying yet another gift set of pre-wrapped toiletries, probably destined barely to be glanced over before being placed on a high shelf and left to gather dust, why not say to your friend, family member, colleague, 'Today I made the world a slightly better place'. Why not give to charity instead, or volunteer your time?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not against ever giving gifts. I love gift-giving. I just feel that gifts can happen the other 364 days of the year, for better reasons than 'a historical figure was born over 2000 years ago and probably nowhere near this time of year, so now I have to give you these socks that you didn't ask for...'. I have no objection to giving things to folks, especially if they're useful, wanted, well thought out. If they'll make life genuinely *better* rather than just fulfilling some sort of ritual expectation. I'll probably even be buying gifts for a few people this December, they just won't be christmas gifts.

If you're the sort of person who might have the urge to buy me a gift, I urge you please to reconsider. I have no need of more 'stuff' in my life – in fact, I need less. I have more than enough food, more than enough clothes, a warm place to live. The only thing I'm short on is time. I would rather hear that you had donated to charity on my behalf, or spent some time making the world a better place in some way. Some random act of kindness, or at the very least the carbon-neutral, pollution-free and mostly harmless act that is doing nothing at all.

There will be no christmas cards sent from my house, this year. There will be no tinsel, no baubles, and no tree. There will be no massive christmas dinner, or stressful family visits. Life, in fact, will carry on pretty much as usual, except perhaps a little quieter. Since I first went 'on strike' from christmas, several years ago now, midwinter has become a peaceful contemplative time for me to catch up with myself, my reading, and all of the bits and bobs that have built up through the year. I'll be sorting out my tax return, figuring out what I might be donating to charity on top of the steady stream of possessions I've been giving away over the last few months, and thinking about how I can contribute to the lives of friends and family through the rest of the year. I might get some DIY done.

Whatever I end up doing, I'm rather looking forward to the blissful peace of watching the hustle and bustle of the 'festive season' from a safe distance, and not being involved in any of it.

I guess you could say that this is the gift I'm giving myself.

Love and peace to everyone,

Maxine.

x
emanix: (emanix)
(From my personal manifesto)

Live cheaply. Keep the regular costs as low as possible, and save the rest for investments. Invest in things that add to your life. Good shoes for comfort, a good coat for warmth, a camera for memories. Prioritise. Resist ostentation unless it brings joy to people who aren't you.

When you have all you actually need, invest in story. Never forget that narrative has value. Give your lunch to a homeless person. Run naked in the rain. Change the world for the better. Tell a story with your life, and make it a good one.

----

- Written ‎12 ‎January ‎2013. I think when I wrote it originally I considered it unfinished, but having found it on my laptop again today, I think that it stands perfectly well as it is so I'm posting it.
emanix: (emanix)
Ever put up a blog post and then realise only days later you've left out the most important part?

So I posted yesterday about the concept of Self-Evident Epiphanies, but forgot what the burning reason I wanted to talk about it actually was.

Last week I had another Self-Evident Epiphany that I found both utterly banal, and yet deeply inspiring, and it goes as follows:

Every person I have ever admired, every person in power, and every famous person who ever existed was, or is, a human being.

I mean, honestly, take away the crowns, the robes, the uniforms, the bodyguards, the sound technicians, special effects artists, hyperbole and magical thinking, and what have you got? Just people. Making the best decisions they know how.

I mean, think about it. George Bush... is a person. Margaret Thatcher... is a person, Winston Churchill... was a person. Che Guevara, now a near-meaningless T-shirt icon... was a person. Queen Boadicea was a person. Martin Luther King was a person. Emmeline Pankhurst was a person. Lucy Stone was a person. Einstein was a person. Stan Lee, creator of so many superheroes, is a person. Joan of Arc was a person. Buddha. Was a person. Mohammed. Was a person. Jesus Christ. Was a fricking person. Every hollywood actor you know about... is a person. Every musician you've heard of, is a person. Britney Spears, love her or hate her, is a person. Pretty much everyone you've ever heard of, with the exception of fictional characters (and even including some of those - I mean, for example, Saint Nicholas, before he was Santa Claus, he was a person), everyone who had a part in building the world we live in is or was a person. Some of them started out with advantages, others didn't, but every single one of them is or was a person, making the best decisions they know how.

Clearly I'm not the first person to have this sort of thought - After all, it's Self-Evident. Here's Richard Feynman talking about having a 'Healthy Disrespect For Authority'
(Ed. 6/1/2012 - Oops, link broke! A new one can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhD0MxacnIE )

But why is this important? Because sometimes I catch myself making excuses, telling myself it's okay to not even try to change the world, even when it hurts me, because it's a big world, and I'm just one person. Sometimes I make decisions that are a bit feeble, and I tell myself it's okay, because I'm only human.

But everyone I've ever admired, every person in power, and every famous person who ever existed was, or is, a human being.

And so are you.

SEE?
emanix: (Default)
I was introduced to the concept of the Self-Evident Epiphany by a friend of [livejournal.com profile] seinneann_ceoil over a large pot of tea one afternoon. The example she gave was the realisation, several weeks before, that on days when she went out wearing a sweater, she felt warmer. Astonishing!
I introduced her to another on the spot: that the phrase 'Self-Evident Epiphanies' not only has a poetic elegance to it, but also has the most perfectly apt abbreviation: SEE!

Every one of us put our heads to one side, and let out a sigh of delight at the beauty of this newly formed acronym. Ah, the sweetness that is the love of geeks for wordplay.

So the Self-Evident Epiphany, or SEE, is a thought, or a realisation that is perfectly obvious in hindsight, but somehow your brain had failed to register it until just now. A favourite one of mine, which despite its obviousness often fails to stick in my mind: if I keep my room tidy, I don't have to spend so much time Looking For Stuff. I realise this on a fairly regular basis, and it surprises me every time!

What Self-Evident Epiphanies have you had, or heard about?

July 2015

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