For some people Thanksgiving is just the gateway to the Christmas shopping season and for others just an excuse to overeat and watch football all day. But many do take the opportunity to take stock of their blessings and ponder things of the spirit. Perhaps it is because I am currently listening to Thoreau’s Walden but I find this now a unique combination.
Walden, is, of course one of the earliest American guides to what is now call voluntary simplicity. The notion that Thoreau was operating under and many that spiritual teachers have mentioned, is that material wealth often leads to a spiritual poverty. Thoreau went to the woods, not only to write, but also to see if less focus on material goods would lead to a richer inner life. You can be the judge of that by either listening to Walden yourself or perhaps even reading it online. If I can suggest, that maybe over this holiday, put aside your usual blog reading (well, except this one, of course) and spend the time with Thoreau instead.
One of the things that quickly struck me about Walden on this reading was how absolutely contemporary it seems. As he describes a people and a country going to hell in a handbasket because of their over concern with the trivialities of things and the burdens those things actually put on us, I had to keep reminding myself that it was in fact the 1840’s that he was referring to. Truly, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Thoreau was neither the first nor the last to discover that by decreasing our material wants and “needs” we can reach a place where we have time to think, develop our spiritual side and even play because work is no longer a full time burden. Joe Dominguez told of his discovery of this principle in his book, Your Money or Your Life. He found that by paring down to the bare essentials he could live quite comfortably on $6000 per year. Which meant that he could quit his job and simply live on his savings. But even if you have no savings, imagine how much free time you would have if you only needed to work long enough to earn $500 a month. In many ways, that might really be living.
Now on the flip side to that, neither Thoreau or Dominguez were trying to raise kids and and trying to put them through college and such. And there is always the question of “what would happen to the economy if everyone did this”? And perhaps that is a valid question. But I think it is a question worth pondering on this day we give thanks for both our material and spiritual wealth.
And tomorrow is a special day in this regard too. Adbusters every year declares the day after Thanksgiving as “Buy Nothing Day.” It is interesting how difficult this is for me every year. I always was more of a spectator than a participant in the busiest shopping day, but buying absolutely nothing (no Big Buddy, no filling up with gas, no bargain hunting at Smith Sales and so on) is actually pretty hard. So I have much to work on.
Whether you plan to shop til you drop on Friday or plan to use the nice weather to take one more quiet walk in the woods before the snow flies — Happy Thanksgiving!
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