Thursday, December 24, 2009

An atheist at Christmas

Here is a disconnect: I love Christmas, and I am not a Christian. I was raised Christian, but life and logic, among other things, has changed my views. So, what right have I to Christmas, especially being an eco-minded individual? Are the cynics right, is Christmas just another holiday built around shopping?

Of course, Christmas is not perfect, presents make me nervous - even if its just a book I worry about packaging that I can't recycle and won't biodegrade. And I stress about getting too much stuff. Luckily I do not have the stress that comes from last minute shopping - I start thinking about Christmas presents around November, or whenever I see something someone might like. There is also the stress of being with family and reality not meeting expectations or desires.

And yet, I love the Christmas season. I love a lot of the songs (though not played ad infinitum while I'm at work... sung by annoying children). I love winter and the foods you eat and snuggling up to a fire reading Christmas stories or watching sappy Christmas movies. Snow and layering on clothes and mulled wine and spiked cider. Making and decorating cookies and finding the perfect gift and making cards. I even enjoy the Christmas Eve service at church.

This year I was not able to go home and see my friends and family, so this Christmas has been a bit lackluster for me. I managed to get some fir branches from a church that was selling trees to put in a vase, I put my few Christmas cards on a shelf, and that has been the extent of my decorations. I haven't looked at lights or gone to see the gingerbread house displays at Disney or anything else festive. The only thing I have done to celebrate the day (aside from gifts of course) is to have Christmas Eve dinner with my bosses and their family, and afterward go with them to Christmas Eve service at church. I enjoyed that. I now know why I enjoy that service; while spending time with their family at dinner and at church I was surrounded by such a warm feeling of family and community and love and peace. It did not matter that they were christian and I am not. Perhaps I enjoyed it because I was raised in a similar environment, and although it is in my past, it is still a part of me. I guess I could test this theory by participating in a Buddhist or some other religion's ceremony to see if I feel the same, or if it is too foreign.

Despite enjoying the service, I still was not sure if I had a right, as a non-christian, to the holiday. Surprisingly enough, it took a sappy Christmas song on my way home to make me realize that I do have a right to Christmas. [side note: Christians, even if you do not agree with my reason for thinking an agnostic/atheist has a right to Christmas, consider: I have as much right to take back a holiday as you did to take it many centuries ago] The song was "Do They Know Its Christmas?" by Band Aid. Maybe it helped that I was primed from listening to John Henry Faulk's Christmas Story on NPR. There might have been another song on that helped get the point across, but it was during that song that I realized that Christmas is about love - for your family and friends and neighbors, and peace and giving. Not just the capitalistic, mad rush to buy a shiny new *thing*, but giving from the heart, and charitable giving. Its about setting aside differences and realizing we are all humans, and learning to coexist peacefully. Its what the Grinch and George Bailey learned. I suppose if I had watched my favourite Christmas movies I would not have had to figure this out on my own.

Granted, these are values we should consider more than once a year, but like Valentines and Thanksgiving or Mother's Day, its good to set aside a day to remind us about these things. And, what would life be if we did not have holidays and traditions to look forward to? If each day was like the next. Or there were only part days like New Years.

That is what I feel anyways. I know I will never convince the cynics who think it is just another mass market capitalistic attempt to get us to spend. And I'm sure I would get a different response from the coalition of put the Christ back in Christmas. But at least I have figured out why I love it, and that it is ok.

Bed Time Stories prt I

Once upon a time Alyssum forgot to screw her head on tight and it fell off.
She didn't notice, and she never missed it.
And she lived happily ever after.

For ignorance is bliss.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Life Without Plastic

I found another cool green one-stop-shop online called life without plastic. They are even greener than some other places in that they only sell recyclable/natural products. Cool! I wish I had thought more about a products entire lifecycle before I had made other purchases. I have a neoprene lunch bag, which I bought off of (which is another great shop, but not all of their stuff is cradle to cradle). Life without plastics also has a cool blog which had a neat blogpiece (what is a blog piece? Article? Modern language is getting more terms than I can keep up with!) about tiffins in India. It concerns how cheap plastic is on the rise, where formerly people relied on sturdy metal containers because they could not afford the disposables. An excellent point here is that they could not afford the plastic so they bought containers that would last multiple generations: i.e. pay more money up front, save in the long run. Come to think of it, what does my mom still have and what would I buy at an antique store; cheap plastic containers, or Corningware and Pyrex containers? The Pyrex and Corningware (with the exception of the plastic lids) are still in great condition after years of use, but who wants the plastic? A lot of the Tupperware is actually holding up, but bugs have been known to eat through it, I don't know what is in it, and what could you heat in it?

I am learning, and I "getting greener", but it is disturbing to look back at things I once thought were environmentally friendly and discover that they are not so much. I have learned that it is important that something must not only be reusable, it must also be manufactured responsibly, be sturdy and long lasting, and it should also be biodegradable or recyclable when I am through with it. Durable reusable bags made from canvas or recycled materials, metal water bottles with no liners to leach hormone disrupting chemicals, food storage containers which will also not leach chemicals, recyclable toothbrushes, feminine products... the list goes on! And I continue to learn. I do not think I am being a "hippy extremist" either. These are all rational and science backed concerns. Certain linings have been shown to leach harmful chemicals. Considering where our trash ends up when we are done with it is only a responsible thought process. The only possible negative effect here is that it is getting harder to buy "necessary" items that are not sustainable, which I must throw away (leading me to wonder, how will I evolve? Will I become a crazy off the grid dwelling person on the fringe of society?).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Great Sexy Debate

Lately I have been forced to take a strong look at myself and say "Who do I love more? Who is hotter?" I feel in love with Jon Stewart maybe five or six years ago, and back then he had no competition. He's funny, he's smart, and each year he just gets hotter. Its true, look at an old video and modern Jon wins.

But, not too long ago Stephen Colbert started to have a bigger presence. First he was just this guy doing bits on the Daily Show and showing up in Goodyear commercials. Then he had his own show. At first I didn't think much of it, I preferred to watch Jon. But, as I continued to watch The Colbert Report Stephen became more attractive to me. Aside from his wit and good looks (he was even attractive when growing his hair back). He's so much more active than Jon. He'll play basketball or tennis with some guests, he's traveled to Iraq. He promoted charitable giving when he introduced the donorschoose challenge which helped to fund classroom projects. And, he can sing! I'm not talking about the fun caroling music he does in his Christmas special either. In his interview with Elvis Costello his voice is divine. This would be enough on its own, but his face is on the cover of a most delicious ice cream - Ben & Jerry's American Dream Cone.

So, whats a girl to do? It looks like Stephen is gaining the upper hand, although Jon will always have a special place in my heart. And who's to say I can't love them both?
Let me know what you think. Who is hotter? Obviously the papers have it wrong when they talk about Johnny Depp or Rob Pattinson. When have you heard either than make a fart joke?

Friday, December 4, 2009

no babies

What with so many of my friends and aquaintances - and aquantainces friends and friend's friends - having babies, I am left to wonder; "Why? Is it worth it?"

So I present to you my list of reasons not to have a baby.

They're loud (they'll cry, they'll scream, they'll whine and complain). They won't be that cute and immobile forever. Too many untestable risks (disorders, diseases, sociopath, republican, bum, cheerleader..). There goes your social life. Are you ready to commit to someone for 18- 50 or more years (who knows when they'll move out or you have to talk to them if nothing else)? Kids these days! Do you want to deal with sexting?! Probably shouldn't walk around naked or in various stages of undress (sure, when they're young its ok, but what about when they're older Mrs. Robinson?). Toys and cars and college and crap (little consumers!). So much to worry about - is there lead in their toys? Melamine in their milk? Is Frank the neighborhood pervert watching them? Will they call?! You get bored. You change your mind. Did I mention the screaming? And the personal space? The freedom. Shaking is frowned upon. They don't listen. They're little demon humans who will grow up to be adults and I seriously wonder whether they come with any pre-programed morals or values - so you'd better instill some! Your not supposed to call them names or smack em. And what if you mess up? There's no pretest for parenthood.

I think that's all. I know, aren't I a horrid person for thinking that about children. I'm sure there's more I can't think of at the moment.

What I would like - although I am not at this time even remotely considering breeding - is for you to tell me why anyone would want to have children. I'm curious.

I do know that they are little social and genetic experiments, and of course that is fun. I cannot agree with the "keep the human race alive" theory. Why? Let it peter out. It would make a nice book. What would the last few be like? How will they die? Suicide or old age? But who would read it!?(I am thinking of "On The Beach" by Nevil Shute, but ending for a different reason of course) That would be a shame. The human race dying off and no one to observe and comment on it - except perhaps the dolphins. "So long and thanks for all the fish!"

which is more important? i.e. which would you choose at the exclusion of the other?