Holidays are religious in origin honoring God(s) and Heroes
The Civil war brought us Memorial Day.
WWI brought us Veteran’s day.
Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s birthday merged to form the Supersized President’s Day!
There’s Martin Luther King Day
The 4th of July
Let’s not even get into Christmas and Easter, Valentine’s, Mother’s and Dad’s day.
It may look like the way we honor people is to shop, but I think not. I believe shopping and the blockbuster films which come out on holidays are not just part of American consumerism. Buying things is of course a show of faith in our economy. Shopping and entertainment are also a way to avoid thinking about death which is what all these holidays have in common.
I feel strangely alienated from death. People used to have many children because a certain percentage of them would die. Now many people only have one or none. The teenage pregnancy rates have dropped with the overall number of children born during the recent recession. The purchase of chocolate has gone up.
I like visiting cemeteries, walking in them, running through them. I like to visit my own mortality. It appears to put me in the power position which I certainly am not. I stalk death, it doesn’t stalk me.
I went to some yard sales, to Nordstroms, JC Penney’s, and Lowes this weekend. They did not make me happy. I bought some plants to keep me busy gardening. I tried on some hats and got some shoes for a wedding. But what I want is something deeper. Not a memory of a trip or a cookout, not a bargain but some guidance as to the purpose of life and acceptance of death.
My mother died on Memorial Day weekend 30 years ago. My father was a World War II veteran who died 44 years ago. I remember Memorial Day as being a solemn ritual involving prayers, flowers, tributes in graveyards. Tomorrow I will observe the 150th anniversary of this Civil War holiday. I will try to understand why I struggle against my own family, against my self, against things and people I can’t change. I will take stock of how far I can go to change something important without becoming a perpetrator of violence myself. I will listen to what the dead have to say. That may sound scary but most of the quotes above are from those who have passed on while the ads were most likely produced by the living. Not that all dead people are wise, but they probably have better things to do than shop and party. Or maybe not?