Tag Archives: greed

‘Tis the Season


I love this time of year but am also the sort of person who sees the glass as half empty and half full all at the same time—a realist, if you will. So I realize that this time of year is all mixed up with positives and negatives. Merry Christmas to all, with some Bah, Humbug, too.

I love the giving. We share gifts at this time of year with family and friends, colleagues and strangers, even faceless people whose names we learn from angel trees.  We give a lot, and as we do we celebrate words like Believe. Hope. Joy. Peace.

And then we go and buy more and more stuff like it’s going out of style, which it is, but we can’t seem to help ourselves. I hate that part. The commercialism, the consumerism, and lots of other –isms that are better described as Greed. We crave More and can’t find Enough.

All that jumbled together in one season.

And then there are the people. Those merrily singing that it’s the hap-happiest time of the year, and those mired in depression. Those lavishly decorating cozy houses, and those sleeping outside in the dark and cold.

This entire semester, one of our amazing students planned an event she called, Sleep in the Square, that occurred this past weekend. The entire point was to raise awareness regarding homelessness in our local community. As she so eloquently put it, “A night for friends and strangers alike to gather and hear stories of those who have experienced homelessness, attempt to sleep while exposed to the elements of the outdoors, and encounter an evening filled with transparent cross-cultural conversations.”

We did all of that—we gathered, heard, attempted, and encountered. I was amazed by our students and their friends who slept out in the cold (pictured above the next morning), although I went home and slept in a warm bed for a few hours before returning for the closing liturgy of repentance and joy (there’s that dichotomy again!). The experience left me mixed-up just like the season, filled with love and hope, right alongside a sobering realization of my undeserved privileges and weakness.

Sometimes I feel that I should apologize for pointing out the dueling natures at this time of year—until I remember that the Christ-ian story underlying Christ-mas is exactly that kind of story.

‘Tis a mixed up season, one that reminds us that It’s a Wonderful-but-Messy Life.

More vs. Enough

In the mid-1980s, despite pedagogical intentions, Coach Watson’s “Global Studies” course introduced me to The Far Side. We checked in on Gary Larson’s strange mind each day as we perused the newspaper for world events (and/or, read the sports page).

Although impossible to pick an all-time favorite, the cartoon featuring a courthouse broadcast where the reporter said something like, “Dramatic testimony against Mr. Pumpkineater was given today by his sister, Jeannie Jeannie Eatszucchini,” always makes me fall on the floor.

But today, for some reason, one of Larson’s anthropomorphic classics came to mind. Mr. and Mrs. Cow are in the living room, and Mr. Cow is in the easy chair with a beer in front of the television. Mrs. Cow is standing in front of the picture window, a fruit platter by her side, a string of pearls around her neck, and bracelets dangling from an arm holding a glass of wine. She looks over her shoulder and says to Mr. Cow, “Wendell…I’m not content.”

Hee-larious. The drawing itself, the absurdity of the scene, and maybe most especially something about a cow named Wendell is so outlandishly clever.

The disturbing part is when I identify with Mrs. Cow.

Once upon a time in a law school paper on Greed titled, “Enough Already,” I shared Dr. Stanley Hauerwas’s one-word definition of the deadly sin of greed—“more”—and juxtaposed that insatiable desire with the idea of “enough.” “More” vs. “Enough.” I’ll give you one guess which one characterizes my mind most often.

“Enough” is elusive, in part because death comes quickly if taken too far, i.e., life demands more air to breathe; more food to eat; more exercise to stay healthy; more money to pay bills; more goals to achieve; and so on and so forth, but the ability to be satisfied, in a given day or a given moment, is important for mental health if nothing else.

And when you are a cow with a glass of wine and a fruit platter, anything less is just ungrateful.