Did you know there is a shortage of toys this year? Retailers’ advice: get your shopping done early so you can buy aplenty. OK, so they are going on the premise that coveted toys must be had at all costs. A fallacy as far as common sense is concerned. Clichés aside, the best gift we can give our children (and ourselves) is time spent together: read, play, explore, and listen. Be present and things will go well.

Aside from toys, there’s more shortages yet, concerning slightly older ages (emphasis on slightly). The iPhone 13 production will too be on the slim side because of missing microchips.

The message relayed by many business sections of news outlets and over the radio too goes like that: better start shopping if you care about the happiness of your loved ones, or your own. Shop now to avoid disappointment, they say.

What are we clinging to here? Status, instant gratification that dissolves in apathy shortly after, a fleeting moment of joy over material possessions? I have trouble calling it joy because of the wholesomeness I usually attach to that word. A walk in the woods in early morning with my dog is joyful, a beautiful sunset and the quiet beauty of rainy night, hugging loved ones, reading a book that makes your soul dance or intrigues your mind – that’s joy.

Things get bad enough on any given year when the Christmas shopping starts in November, but this year’s shortage scenario is downright infuriating. The pandemic has been affecting our lives in myriad painful ways, but one thing we got reminded of was that slowing down is not the worst thing. On the contrary.

Consumerism got curtailed somewhat during the pandemic, as some supply chains slowed down or dried up. What better time to learn about these supply chains: who is making the phones so badly needed and who is mining the resources needed for it (spoiler alert: it might be forced labour); who is making the toys that are said to be in short supply (there’s much slavery and suffering out there at the end of the manufacturing line, that much we ought to know) and what are the main resources used to make these toys and transport them (fossil fuel tops the list). Just a sample of matters to consider.

Also, can we consider the waste generated by this insatiable consumerism, more visible after Christmas, although as we all know, there are now too many sales to count throughout the year luring people to buy more and more, which produces more waste. Electronic waste too, mountains of it. It’s not pretty or responsible, or mature.  

I wrote many times about needs vs. wants. Here’s another opportunity to realize the ridiculousness of incessant wants that take us to the end of the Earth as far as resources and garbage space are concerned.

What if you don’t buy into it this year (pun intended)? What if you just dig your heels in and once you buy what you need, if you really need that whatever it is, and you buy it locally or from a Canadian small business which there are many, then please just stop and reflect on some points:

  • Consumerism is out of control as it is.
  • The corporations that made money during the pandemic are the ones that are ringing the shortage alarm, so perhaps a deaf ear is the best we should offer to them. On the other hand, small family-owned businesses support their families and shopping with them means your money stays where it’s most needed, in communities across the province and country.  
  • No trendy toys or phones or clothing will ever give happiness. (Except books, they will do that because of the worlds they open within us. Yes, I am biased that way).
  • The one thing we need lots of is time, and that cannot be bough with money.

Books I am presently reading:

  • Andy Russell, The Life of a River (2000)
  • Emeran A. Mayer, MD with Nell Casey, The gut-immune connection: how understanding the connection between food and immunity can help us regain our health (2021)

And just finished:

  • J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy (2018)
  • Benjamin Kilham, Out on a Limb – What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition (2014). Reflections on both coming soon.

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts and worthwhile books you come across.