Archive for November, 2012

Keeping Up with the Presents

Friday, November 30th, 2012

It’s now full on the holiday shopping season. God finds it kind of interesting that we humans invent new seasons, or overlay things on existing ones. He thought that “winter” was good enough for this time of year, but not us, we have to make it “Christmas Season” or “Holiday Season” or “Shopping Season.” Still he finds it amusing as long as we avoid rioting in the aisles of our local mega-store.

One of the things that I’ve always found somewhat trying, this time of year, is trying to balance things out. In some ways it was easier when I was poor. I figured out how much I could afford to spend, I made a list of the people to whom I wanted to give presents, and then I divided the money evenly to get a target price. Then I’d hunt up things in that range. But when I started to earn a bit more money, it was no longer that simple. Now I have to consider things like what’s the budget of the target of my largess? Will they feel badly if I spend more on them than they spend on me? Will they feel slighted if I spend less on them than on some mutual friend?

Luckily I’ve managed to sort this out in a fairly egalitarian way, or really, in three ways. With most of my friends, we just don’t exchange gifts. They’re the sorts of friends I’d probably send greeting cards to if I were more organized in that sort of way. There’s another group that have banded together in a formal pact, we draw names and use the one name we draw as a surrogate for the group as a whole. And we have a set target value, so it’s all very clean and safe. Then the third group is the kids. There’s various kids that I know, that I see enough of through the year, that I want to get them something. But they don’t much compare notes, they don’t much focus on how much the presents cost, and they know very well that they don’t need to get me something and that if they do, they have no way to compete on budget. So we get to be lopsided and everybody’s happy.

Of course, God doesn’t like to make our lives too simple, so he tosses in some ringers. He makes sure there are people that come in and out of my life so that I’m never sure if I should get them something or not. Some of them feel the same way about me. So we play the balls where they lie. And it’s always best if those balls are well infused with rum. Which is another thing I love about the season.

Use Your Rules

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the United States. You might, therefore think that I’m going to talk about the things we have to be thankful for and the things that God is thankful for and so on and so forth.

But I’m not. And not only that, I’m not going to talk about gluttony.

Instead I’m going to talk about a related human strength, empathy. Empathy is the basis of the best of human interaction. It’s what guides us to being fair. It’s what makes us want to do more for those we love, than they do for us; because when they feel good, so do we. The old Cherokee saying, “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes,” is all about empathy.

Okay, I lied a little up front, I am going to mention being thankful. You see, yesterday when God and I were talking, she did ask me what I was thankful for. I told her I was thankful that at least most people tried to live by the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is most classically stated as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” God said he had a problem with that particular invocation. The problem is that it doesn’t account for all of our differences. A not-quite-over-the-top refutation would be that just because I would enjoy having peanuts in my food, doesn’t mean that I should put peanuts in the food of someone severely allergic to them.

I argued that such an example is merely following the letter of the law, not the spirit. In that example you could say that the proper reading of the Golden Rule would be to give my friend food that he or she would enjoy and which would not be detrimental to their health, not give them the exact food that I might be craving at the moment. God said that was right, but that supported her complaint about the wording since to make my point I resorted to altering the wording for the circumstance. We did go back and forth a bit and I got her to concede that English is such an imperfect means of communication that it’s nigh on impossible to come up with a single pithy phrase that couldn’t be twisted around to support something other than its true intent.

But she convinced me that we could do better than “do unto others.” She wouldn’t give me a phrase of her own, she’s learned that being quoted often works against her, but we talked around it a bit until I finally came up with a phrase that she said was better. So my suggestion for the new meaning of the Golden Rule, “Use your empathy.” And that’s where we left it.

Like the Black Plague

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Coming up next week is… I don’t know, an event, a holiday, a festival… I don’t quite know what to call it, but it goes by the name Black Friday. It’s the day after Thanksgiving here in the U.S. Unofficially (and pretty much everything about Black Friday is unofficial), it’s the start of the Christmas shopping season. Mind you, organized people, and even some not-so-organized people, have already bought some of their Christmas presents, or Hanukkah presents, or Solstice, or Kwanzaa, or whatever, but that’s “out of season” so it doesn’t count, or at least not in the same way.

So Black Friday, stores compete to open ever earlier in a bid to get a jump on our holiday budgets before the other stores can. Someday, all stores will open at the stroke of midnight at the end of Thanksgiving if we don’t find a way to reign in unfettered capitalism by then. Anyway, the various stores will run various forms of ads trying to convince us that their store is THE place to be when the doors open. These ads will include traditional phrases like “up to X% off” or “only Z available at this price.” Both of those are things that God and I agree, well, suck.

We talked about it a bit, and I’m not sure if it was his idea or mine, but we think that no ad should be allowed to say “up to X%” without also saying “at least Z%.” And whichever statistic is the least flattering to the product in question must be in a font size at least twice that of the other value. And not just the number, the whole phrase. I’m sure they’ll just find some other way to lie without really lying, but I can dream, for just a little bit, can’t I.

A Vote in Time

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Well the elections here in the U.S. are finally over. Some of my picks won, some of them lost. So it goes.

I asked God how she felt about the outcome, was she pleased, was she upset? She told me that it’s just one election, that from her perspective it doesn’t much matter. She asked if when I glanced at an hourglass if I cared whether a falling grain slid to the left or the right. She told me that like sands through the hourglass so are the elections of our lives.

“Cute,” I said, “making an allusion to the opening line of the soap opera ‘Days of Our Lives.'”

Then she told me she was actually making a reference to “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”

“But ‘Days of Our Lives’ came first,” I said, “Bill and Ted’s was making a reference to the TV show.”

So she set me straight, she told me that it only appeared that way from my impoverished view of time. She said that the writer’s of the movie came up with the line, and she liked the movie so much that she thought it would be a fitting tribute to it, it being a time travel movie and all, if she took something from it and seeded it into the past; so she took the line and went back to the 1960s and gave it to a writer who was struggling to come up with a new show.

And the rest is history. Or at least the sort of history that you see on TV.

Hot Air

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

I didn’t get to see much of God this week. He popped in briefly just to tell me that he was busy trying to lessen some of the damage being caused by a lot of hot air on the east coast.

“Ah, hurricane Sandy,” I said.

But no, he told me, the hot air was from a bunch of preachers trying to claim that God had sent hurricane Sandy because of New England’s tolerance for homosexuality and abortion.