Presents Versus Presence

“I am so often deterred from my actual intent by distractions in a cellophane wrap
and the cruel voice that taunts me when I open them up to find just one more box full of crap.” ~ Waterdeep

I have lots of problems with religious belief and faith, but there is one frequent tenet of religion that I can fall in line with:  Austerity.

Ironically, during this oh so holy time of year when Christians (nominal and fanatic, alike) celebrate the birth of their Lord Baby Jesus, all pretense of ‘Storing up treasures in Heaven’ is dropped and the grand majority of society comes together to agree that Loving Thy Neighbor means buying them some useless shit.

So, whatever.  Do what you want.  At this point, while I will never get tired of pointing out the hypocrisy of Capitalist Christianity, I accept that here in America buying stuff is pretty much how we show our affection for others.

Maybe that’s the best we can do.

But I hope not.

“There aren’t words to say, words aren’t remembered, but presence is…” ~ Caedmon’s Call

We have very little we can offer another person that is of any substantial worth.  In the nearly three decades of gifts I’ve received for birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries and whatever else, only a handful of those presents have remained with me.

Stripped of all worldly possessions, I have my memories.

Granted, I’m an unusual case.  Maybe you have a gargantuan stockpile of gifts from friends, family members and lovers that you cherish.  But, I wonder, how many of those gifts do you cherish because of what they are and how many do you cherish because of who they remind you of?

Call me crazy, but my fondest memories are of those times spent with loved ones.  Isn’t it the same for you?  Their presence in our lives is how we define ourselves, how we express the hours of our lives.  They cannot be reduced to the things they’ve bought us, or the things we’ve bought them.

When all is said and done, all that really connects us to another person are shared memories.

In my opinion, gifts lessen (and cheapen) those memories.

“Maybe I should just call up my friend and play some music, be myself.” ~ Delirious?

But, there I go again, being an outsider.

I suffer neither from the delusion nor the arrogance to assume that anything I can write will change the way this country masquerades its selfish consumerism as piousness and love.  Every individual believes their reason for buying Christmas gifts for other people is out of true affection, just like everyone believes they aren’t affected by advertising (despite it being a multibillion dollar industry).

I’m not going to waste my time or energy telling people to not buy Christmas gifts.  The earth orbits the sun, the Christmas season will return every year (around October, apparently).

All I can do is make a personal plee:

For those of you who are in my life, I ask, I beseech, I beg:  Do not buy me gifts.  Don’t buy me Christmas gifts.  Don’t buy me birthday gifts.  Don’t buy me any gifts.

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve said it or how much I’ve insisted in the past:  Family, friends, girlfriends, they all feel the need to buy me stuff.  But I exclaim with utmost sincerity, I do not want you to buy me anything, ever.  When you feel the urge to spend fifteen dollars on me, donate it to Oxfam.

I assure you, this is not selflessness on  my part.  It is unabashed selfishness.  I am the most awkward gift-receiver in the history of the world and I am incapable of gracefully accepting a gift.  Save us both the awkwardness.

If you feel the need to be-gift me with anything, make it your presence.  10 Cities/10 Years is all about my experiences, so sharing a unique experience with me is both a way for me to enjoy my life and to fill out my future book.

I guarantee you, $20 spent on an evening out will mean 10-fold as much as $40 spent on some wonderfully thoughtful thing.

And maybe I’m completely out of touch, but I bet giving your presence to someone this year will be far more meaningful than any present you could buy.

Heck, in this bad economy, it’s worth a shot, right?