illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
December is the worst month, isn't it? Social pressure on spending more than you can spend, for people you might not even like, on gifts that won't be appreciated for their value (it is well established by statistics that people consistently under-estimate the monetary value of gifts they receive, let alone the 'added' value by the giver in terms of time, adequateness, intention, love…).
And as if the mass hysteria and pressure towards compulsive spending weren't enough, charities step up their funding campaigns.
After all, if you feel bad for spending money you know you shouldn't, if you feel bad for being upset with people you think you 'should' like or love instead (all relationships can be testing), if you feel bad at the obvious waste while hunger and homeless are still present on your doorstep (let alone the other side of the world), it is a good time for charities to provide you with an opportunity to buy yourself a 'conscience'. Naturally, winter can indeed, objectively be harder for the home-less, fuel-less, food-less… But violation of human rights or educational needs are not getting harder in winter; it's just a commercially-optimised time to ask for donations.
So, of course, I could just follow the charity rulebook, put some picture about some dreadful situation and try to elicit a feeling of pity or compassion, in order to then propose to relieve you from any sense of responsibility by offering to respond to the situation in your name, by offering 'delegation'… Then tell myself some narrative about how manipulative marketing is not something to be proud of but is necessary in our current world, and how "the end justifies the means"…
Or… do I simply suggest you take a step back, and ask yourself what nurtures your spiritual growth and what matters?
If you cannot but monetize everything (free market bias combined with comparison addiction), how much is your spiritual growth 'worth' to you? How does this worthiness compare with what you spend due to unexamined consumerist status-quo?
Do I suggest you ask yourself what difference will socially-forced marketing-driven spending make on your deathbed compared to any charitable spending of the same amount? Is a world that ritually gets in debt in December, for all the wrong reasons, the legacy you want to have?
Many people will be happier with their gifts wrapped (still with their hope of receiving whatever it is they want in that particular moment) than with the gifts unwrapped!
Based on what Buddhism calls 'ignorance' by the recipient, many gifts lead to anxiety then suffering, never to even one single instant of happiness.
So it is not just about spending on others, it also is about wise spending… wise generosity… and about all of us, givers and recipients, cultivating the cessation of lust, aversion and ignorance! Now, how (in practical terms) do you support the cessation of the lusts, aversions and ignorance troubling the recipients of your Christmas gifts? By trying to find the gift that will once in a blue moon satisfy their craving, if only for an instant? By fuelling their cravings and their endless quest for "a reality matching desires", i.e. by hurting them and keeping them deep in the unsatisfactory status-quo?
Could I suggest you commit to a regular donation for the spiritual support of yourself and others, the spiritual support of all of us?
Last month, the teachings and support I offered (through posts, comments, emails and even hangouts) could be given thanks to 11 one-off donations and 10 recurring donations (with 1 person counted in both categories), i.e. thanks to the support 20 donators to who I am extremely grateful (I was sick and medicine did help maintaining my presence here, for all). I know many people assume it's easy to get funded with nearly 90,000 followers but it's not: money just doesn't grow on tree, for anyone (and 90,000 is just such a nice number to justify to oneself not to give, because 'others' supposedly will…). Amazingly, most donations were given by people struggling with their own circumstances.
Am I offering a magic wand, a silver bullet, a perfect solution to world hunger, to income inequality, to world peace? No, I'm not.
I'm only humanly supporting normal people to experience healthy lives (in a maybe not-so-ordinary, not-so-enslaved, not-so-habitual, not-so-automatic, not-so-'normal' way of relating to whatever happens)… but I think it has the potential to make a measurable difference: it already made a difference for some people grieving a loss, it already made a difference in various relationships (with partner, with children, with neighbours, with work colleagues), it already made a difference in the US, in India and in various Northern European countries… It already made a difference toward world peace, not by grand promises but one mind at a time, one moment at a time.
Do you think we could together commit to bring a bit more peace in relationships, to help a few more people to drop some of their suffering, to cultivate freedom from the dictats of marketing, of the endless rat race, of biases and habits and addictions?
Please commit to a monthly donation (appropriate to your means) at