Holidays in America – Deep Materialism and the Miracle of We

To me, the holiday season is deeply spiritual. It is also deeply commercial and materialist. It is deeply spiritual precisely because it is so commercial and materialist.

My intent here is to put a newer, deeper spin on the ideas of materialism and commercialism.  It is true that Holidays can be void of commerce.  Either because gifts are not given (which I often prefer), or because gifts are made and created.

I think both options are great!  But for many who would prefer these options, it is difficult to get the rest of a family to follow suit and one is left in a dilemma of having to be the weirdo (hence not jiving with family) or going along with a hollow, meaningless, commercial ritual.  The purpose of this article is to consider another way out by reminding us all of something that we already know.

With the holiday season comes the joy of celebration. The season affords you an opportunity to seriously reflect on what various loved ones and friends mean to you. As you search stores, websites, and catalogs for the right gift for each individual – you must consider what each physical item for sale potentially offers in meaning to the target giftee. How does it affect their soul? While cable news pundits and sales analysts look at the dry numbers and paths of dollars in an attempt to steer our cash , many of us partake in an activity more deeply spiritual.

In this particular story, by “spiritual”, I am referring to the internal vibe that we can share with another human being. This is a deep vibration of togetherness you might call admiration or love. Scientific equipment, measuring devices, even the five senses cannot detect it, yet this vibration is obvious and real to everybody, certainly as real as the experience of physical material all around us.

Consider what it is like when you get together with someone you really enjoy being around. You experience a shared feeling, you believe you understand each other, or see eye to eye, or share an emotion. Beyond words or concepts, the actual texture of those experiences, thoughts, shared insights, emotions – the felt texture of that shared space – is an example of the two of you joining together into a sense of “we”.

“We” is mutual understanding  - many times even beyond words (mutual resonance). While many of us think it is weird when others don’t or can’t understand us – in pure physical reality – as separate and unique individuals who bump around each other like fleshy billiard balls in chain reaction – - consider how weird it is that anyone understands you (or me) at all!

This activity of mutual resonance – which converts two “I’s” each of which is a “you” to the other, into a “we” – births a world perceived by neither “I” alone. It is a world that is neither totally subjective (merely relative) nor objective (merely universal). Given this slippery slope of fluid amorphism, it is hard to understand how this can actually happen at all . Yet it does – constantly. *

It is a true miracle. Yes?

To understand (& it is often better done without words) what another person means to you, simply bring them to mind and feel into what you mean by “we”. Open right into the pure essence of what this “we” is, and you might even find something like God.

It is that powerful.

During the holidays we find ourselves looking for the perfect gift. This gift will likely be the physical object (or activity in the case of a gift like tickets to a show) that most accurately “contains” the unique vibration you and I call “we”. This is no easy task. It is so difficult, in fact, that most Americans have completely given up on it. We have reduced ourselves to giving each other Christmas lists and other such practical nonsense. What seems entirely logical creates a void of meaning in our lives. The season loses a specialness in the name of being pragmatic.

All of us have received or given a gift that really hit the mark at some point in our lives. It was an experience that that cut into our heart with the precision of the best surgeon’s scalpel and opened a love, appreciation, or togetherness thick enough to swim through. This gift often is not an expensive gift, but one that creates a moment so lucid eternity floods it. The holiday season is ripe with this potential.

I am by no means “preaching from the pulpit” here.  Most Holidays, my family is asking me for a list (I do not hold this against them as I realize that my odd choice of lifestyle creates a nearly impossible situation for them to vibe with my current incarnation as a yoga and healing devotee).  Meanwhile because of the distance between us, I am finding my resonance with them difficult to access when I shop.  Yet, I refuse to take a list from them because I’d rather not make my shopping some hollow chore to check off.  At least half the time I end up needing to fish for a hint at the last minute to make the gift a relevant one.  This is just a sneakier version of the Christmas list I attempt to avoid.

…. and I will add that this year, I’ve finally gotten my wish to do Christmas without gifts… just the gift of time together.  I hope to do this for a few Christmas’s as I really only like to give gifts that I feel will create immense joy or totally change another person’s life.   It otherwise seems like baggage – but ….

There is still nothing better than the surprise of hitting the mark with a gift.  This is what I live for when I am gift giving.  I love the quest to find the physical object which will most express the way my receiver and I resonate with each other.  Shopping, Hunting, or creating this way is deeply spiritual.  I love this side of commercialism, of the 2nd Industrial Revolution that has created such a variety of useful goods (and many more un-useful), but it is a side of the beast which is always overshadowed by the thought of $$ = value, instead of Resonance = Value.

By attempting to instill the resonance of “we” into a material object, am I being a materialist? Absolutely. Is this a negative? I don’t believe so. We live in a material world and sharing the material has within it an essence of love and admiration that are hard to express by other means. I do not believe that we suffer as a society because we are ‘too materialistic’, in fact, I believe we suffer because we are not materialistic enough.

To be a good materialist means to have a love and respect of material things. Chocolate lovers seek chocolate of the highest quality.  Yoga lovers seek high quality yoga (which is what I and the other teachers hope to offer).  If we as Americans truly cherished material, we would seek material of the highest quality.  Yet Americans do not seek out the highest quality as a general rule.  I am shocked at the number of singing fish and other piles of junk that are sold each year.  For every single gorgeous architectural site, there are thousands of ugly strip malls.  One instills resonance, the other instills nothing but hollow efficiency.

We have lost uncountable amounts of cultural richness from our misguided over-pragmatism….  over the confusion that $$ = value instead of resonance = value.  The hollowness of strip mall ticky-tack is not merely symbolic.  Real Material resonates with Real Meaning, maybe not in physical space, but in “we space”.

There is something profoundly human about enjoying high quality. There is an unheard resonance in consuming an object that took lots of love and effort for someone else to produce. Whether it is high quality chocolate, an artistically crafted automobile, an artisan ice cream, or an amazingly streamlined bicycle (pick your so-called vice), we know deep down that our enjoyment of the material is more insanely spiritual than most of us want to admit. It is this deep enjoyment that we hope to uncage during the holiday season. We celebrate the miracle of togetherness through quality.

Through Resonance.

It is why I hope many of us don’t waste the opportunity for quality and resonance this season.  Even if we try and fail miserably, the quest of resonance in material form is one of the great spiritual endeavors in our lives.  At our best, we can make peace with our material nature, enjoy our commercial quest to find deep resonance, and bask in the miracle of “we”.  May your holidays be deeply materialistic and…..










· * These two paragraphs paraphrased from Ken Wilber’s Integral Spirituality Chapter 7 “A Miracle Called We”