News and Tribune

December 16, 2013

CUMMINS: Deck the halls with material objects

Local columnist

— How many material objects can a sane person manage? Apparently, there is no limit in this age of easy credit and conniption-fit consumption. When your house fills up, buy a bigger one that has an entertainment center big as a barn. After a long, arduous day managing your objects, go into your entertainment — relaxation — calm-down-center and prepare for bed. Do you sit there in the quiet? No, you switch on things, two or three of them, but focus on only one at a time for at least three minutes. That gives you enough time to realize that you need to upgrade to a later model of that thing.

Fortunately, technology has reduced numerous objects into a tiny one — a mobile iThing that goes with you like your head does. I see public people everywhere even at funerals, who are not focused on the dead person lying amongst the flowers, but on themselves, apparently, checking on the stock market or the weather at the burial site.

During the Christmas or Holiday Season for those at war on Christmas, material objects fly through the air on express planes like there was only one rooftop (yours) for reindeer to land. During each December, the strength of the economy and of your Christmas spirit is determined by the number of packages under the trees in your house. Yuletide is a shopping tidal wave.

And then Pope Francis sticks his nose into our capitalistic system. He’s not against Christmas, that’s his business. But he sees the true spirit of what Christmas is from Jesus’ perspective — helping the poor, peace on earth, and instilling the spiritual essence into all life. If materialism was a part of the birth, why did it happen in a manger?

People do help the poor, sometimes. Governments do and then they don’t. Jesus stressed giving rather than receiving, but what do those living at the poverty line give? This is where capitalism will take care of you by expanding and creating more higher-paying jobs at $8.35 per hour, thus eliminating your need for the president to put on a Santa Claus suit.

Let’s take politics out of Christmas, but keep economics in. Free market forces are interested in bounty and peace at WalMart. We give thanks on a Thursday, and the next day is Black Friday followed by endless cyber-shopping days. We buy love on Valentine’s Day, and eggs on Good Friday? Thank God for Labor Day, which is a head-start day to Christmas shopping. But make it easy, not like shopping for health care on the net.

Once we get through Christmas or the holidays for those at war on Christmas, we can make resolutions. I’ve already made one. I’m going shopping for peace of mind.

We get caught up in the festivities, the punch and the fruit cake. I remember running out of Scotch tape on Christmas Eve, and going out and grabbing last-minute things. My wife was a stickler for giving more than we had to our little ones, and it had to even out. “Run to the store and get Timmy one more thing,” she’d say, and I ran. Those were the days, but I finally ran out.

Now I concentrate on peace, worldwide and my own. Material objects clutter our closets, the attic and especially at Christmas when packages mixed with cedar become a fire hazard. My kids got everything. With paper a foot deep on our living-room floor at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning, why did little Timmy play with the empty box his fire truck came in? A toy truck soon gets old, but it takes an imagination to fill an empty box.

Children learn materialism from their parents, who know that Jesus received gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Joseph needed it, but we don’t know what actually came of it. My guess is that Jesus gave it away. He gave everything else away so we could have peace for the taking.

If it’s more blessed to give, what if I leave somebody out? It’s worrisome as it was when I was a child. What I received then was based on how good I was. That was a little too much pressure, as are the self-imposed demands of endlessly wrapping and unwrapping things.

How do we keep the economy going if we don’t buy things year round? One way is to buy only what we need and help those who don’t know what having means. Then what do I receive? Peace would be enough.

— Contact Terry Cummins at