Had I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express the night before there might have been something I could have done to resuscitate our lifeless television, but alas, I had not and it died in my arms.
But after a few moments of coming to grips with broadcast silence, we began the dutiful trudge through the stages of grieving. It was only two days ago after our beloved Sony had breathed its last. Being at least fifteen years old and born long before the days of skinny flat screens, Rick and I were now in the position of being pall bearers faced with the daunting task of muscling the weighty corpse down three flights of stairs and out to the dumpster. But as many tragic endings do, there was a new beginning and it was called ‘Black Friday’.
For those of you living on another planet, Black Friday is an American ritual signaling the approach of Christmas…a very big birthday in the Christian tradition. While scholars continue to debate whether Mary and Joseph camped out in front of a Wal-Mart or a Target, revisionists retailers argue as to exactly when the high shopping holiday begins…sundown on Thanksgiving or dawn on the next day. Whatever the outcome of those debates, there we were with hundreds of other worshippers, all waiting for the doors to open. The magic moment arrived and our throng of pilgrims moved as one, trampling some in what has become an annual migration to the holy of holies…the electronics department!
And there it was. With only moments to spare, we snatched up the brown and blue box heralding forty inches of High Definition glory with its’ rock-bottom price tag. Its light weight of just a few pounds belying her true value, we made our way to the cashier and consummated the transaction. Checking our receipt at the door, the uniformed security guard offered the final benediction, “Merry Christmas”. In those moments as we trekked across the acres of a jammed parking lot back to the car, Life was good and all was right with the World. Setting our new flat screen in the back seat, we chauffeured ourselves back home.
Even older than the TV, our entertainment center was big and heavy with thick oak veneers. Having at least had the forethought to have measured the opening before we left, we already knew the old temple for our dearly departed SONY was not going to work. But progress brings change and with the new TV now upstairs, we began brainstorming in earnest as to what the new set-up was going to be. Getting about the tedious business of it, we began emptying the unit of its contents and pulled the empty carcass into the middle of the room. In the end, one entire side of the living room was completely rearranged.
Later that same day, the now irrelevant entertainment center was carried down the stairs, following in the footsteps of the earlier funeral procession. Soon, it too occupied a place next to the dumpster in hopes of an opportunistic passerby giving either a new home.
Back in the living room, we now set about the task of finding new places to put everything. But where to put it all? In that moment, I was reminded of George Carlin’s comedic monologue on the subject of ‘stuff’. If you’re familiar with the bit, you’ll recall he aptly observes the only reason we move into a larger home is so we’ll have more room for our stuff. And that, in turn, got me to thinking. Isn’t that what our closets are…homes inside our homes for the sole purpose of holding our stuff. I don’t know who it was, but someone equally wise as Mr. Carlin built on his truth. “No matter whether you have one closet or twenty, they will all get filled with stuff.”
As the two of us looked at everything stacked around the living room floor and then towards the closets, we quickly came to the realization of not really having any other real choice but to go through said closets to cull and then rearrange them accordingly. Resigned to the ever expanding creep of the project, we began the tedious process of going through the old stuff which used to be the good stuff in order to make room for the new good stuff now in need of a new home. 3-hours and several more trips to the dumpster, it was finished. And it was good.
The new sleek TV sat on its own freshly waxed table seemingly and absolutely unrepentant for any of the chaos that had rippled through everything as a consequence of its triumphant arrival. The room looked new. Closets were well-organized and the dumpsters’ appetite had been satisfied. And now? Now it was time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labors as we left our analog past behind. Picking up the remote and taking a short breath, the screen came alive with an infomercial from a company selling knee and neck braces. Hardly ‘Watson, Come here’, but the irony was not lost on me that for just a second or two, I thought, “How appropriate. I could probably use one of each right about now”.
But it got better.
The warm and knowledgeable voice coming across our new TV assured us that if we had either private insurance or Medicare, their friendly advisors were standing by to take our call, work with our doctor and handle all the paperwork. Our miracle devices would be delivered directly to our door and all (wait for it) ‘at little or no cost to you’.
Such a deal.
That’s when the next epiphany came slamming home. There is very little of value that has ever come at little or no cost to me. Looking back on everything we had gone through to get the new TV, I remembered my impatient rage in the middle of the Black Friday mob. Humans are over-rated. Bah-Humbug. And then there were all those trips up and down the stairs…and the closets! Going through the old stuff and on and on it went. Our simple decision to replace our dead TV had turned into a two-day project and all so we could watch a television that showed us the true color of someone’s eyes as easily as I could now count the pores on our local newscasters’ nose. Thanksgiving was just a few days ago! All this for a TV? Am I that shallow? What am I doing?
What I’ve been doing since I last graced your screens has been watching, looking at life through the lens of my camera instead of my pen. And while a rank amateur at best, I understand that inherent to developing a ‘good eye’, is watching. And watching? It’s listening. Together, they are both mission-critical skills when it comes to relearning the art of being patient, being at peace while waiting for the problems of Life to more fully reveal themselves before jumping in with a both-footed solution that is probably ill-advised. But waiting takes time.
And like our closets which only have so much room, the same can be said of Time. We only have so much of it. How we choose to prioritize that time says a lot about us. I recently saw a study by Sonja Lyubomirsky that analyzed happiness [http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/happiness/definition]. Guess what? Maybe I was wrong about anything of value always costing me dearly? To paraphrase her fuller work, “…roughly 50 percent of happiness is determined by our genes and 10 percent by our life circumstance, but 40 percent depends on our daily activities”. Seems it’s not so much about the house you live in or how much money you make. With 60% of the equation already off the table, we’re left with what we do being what tips the scale of happiness and Purpose in one direction or the other. I asked again. What am I doing?
Looking at some pictures the other day, I was again (and as usual) brought back to center by the work of those with far less than I.
The Homeless are often invisible to us or, we chose to make them so. Either way, it seems they love us enough to be leaving trail markers for us to see…if we’re paying attention. To some, they may be the least amongst us, but I’ve been giving this some real Soul time and think otherwise. Their names are not known to me, but some of them understand (better than most) that the real values of the Season upon us aren’t the ones we can buy on sale. In fact, the good values don’t even cost us money. They simply require us to be present in the moment and say things like ‘It’s OK’, ‘Forgive’ and ‘Peace’. My personal favorite is ‘Love’.
So be a bad-a@$ this week and do something radical. Tell someone they matter to you. As long as you mean it, it won’t matter how you say it. Say it and mean it – back it up. Do that and I wager it will not only cost you little or nothing, but it could just change the course of the Life you have left, forever. Get the picture?
I dare you.
See it. Out on DVD, the story gives good think. If you’re not careful, you might just find it also being good food for the soul.
“The Giver is a 2014 American social science fiction film directed by Phillip Noyce and written by Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide based on the 1993 novel of same name by Lois Lowry. The film stars Jeff Bridges,Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Cameron Monaghan, Odeya Rush, Alexander Skarsgård, Katie Holmes, and Taylor Swift” (SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Giver_%28film%29)
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
The TV is Dead: http://www.starsandgarters.com/.a/6a00d834518e2169e20120a5d3c942970c-400wi; Black Friday Rush: http://www.chicagonow.com/john-jackson-sports/2014/11/how-black-friday-became-a-symbol-of-american-greed-and-selfishness/; Homeless Beds by dan4kent – all rights reserved; It’s OK (Union Station – coming up onto Madison – Chicago) by dan4kent – all rights reserved; Forgive by dan4kent – all rights reserved; No Bombs – Peace by dan4kent – all rights reserved; Thank You on the Bridge (taken by Kathy): http://www.merrimentdesign.com/chicago-avenue-bridge-graffiti-urban-thank-you-card.php; Love Me: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ctrlzstudios/5856796945/
Closing Photo: Needs a Hug in Portland.
Police Sgt. Bret Barnum hugs 12-year-old Devonte Hart during a demonstration in Portland, Ore. calling for police reform after the Ferguson grand jury decision on Nov. 25, 2014. Photo by Johnny Nguyen. You can read the story by jumping to: http://abcnews.go.com/US/photo-cop-hugging-boy-ferguson-protest-tells-poignant/story?id=27242120
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