material goods

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I learned about Black Friday when a friend asked me what it was. My first thought was that it was some sort of religious holiday. But then I checked it out on the internet. Though western culture is enthusiastically accepted in our country, there are many aspects of western life that haven’t made it here, and some things that are virtually unknown. Thanksgiving, for instance, as beautiful as it is, is a holiday we don’t celebrate. The act of giving thanks for what we have received is an integral part of our heritage. Likewise, Black Friday is unknown here.

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But yesterday, when hearing of lines of people waiting to be admitted to certain department stores, in anticipation of the sales available on black Friday, I was led to thoughts concerning our relationship to physical possessions.

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For me, religion is a vehicle for dealing with the conflicts and difficulties inherent in our human existence. And it occurs to me, that one of the characteristics of religion, even before the advent of monotheism, was giving and sacrifice. For some reason, man felt a need to give of himself to god. Today, we tend to look at idolatry and primitive religions, as something of a caricature. For many, the idea of a rain god, or god of the seas, a fertility god, or some special god who watches over the harvest, is patently absurd. But even today, many people remember or pray to a special saint when they’re worried about some aspect of their day to day lives.

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In our time, the mall has become one of the most visited and beloved institutions of the western world. It is not just a place to visit when you need clothing or tools with which to work. Most people go there for pleasure. They enjoy examining the wares on display. Time there, is considered entertainment, and I’ve often heard people describe the experience as a pleasurable one; improving their mood, and inspiring them to feel good.

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The photos shown here are of the Haas promenade in Armon Hanatziv, opposite the walls of the old city of Jerusalem. One can see Kipat Haselah, and the El Aktza mosque from the promenade, as well as many other parts of our city. The promenade was built in 1987, and people come every day to look at the city of Jerusalem, and to contemplate the holy temple which once stood on the temple mount, also known as Mt Moriah.

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The holy temple was an institution that provided health care, and psychological treatment, as well as religious counseling and ceremony. It was also a source of entertainment and learning. There were great concerts there with an in-house orchestra. People went to give thanks to god, and to pray for relief and success. On the three pilgrimage holidays, the city was filled with pilgrims who came from all over the country to bring s sacrifices to the holy temple. Those sacrifices included beasts that they raised, as well as fowl, fruit and grain. It was customary to choose the finest of one’s agricultural yield, as a sacrifice for the temple.

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Why this need for sacrifice? In English, we’re familiar with the proverb, ‘you can’t take it with you’. Most people, as they grow in awareness, become aware of the limits to the pleasure taken from physical objects. True, there is pleasure in a nice car and a beautiful house, and in fine tools, and art objects, comfortable furniture and toys. But there is also pleasure in knowing that that isn’t us. That these things are just an envelope surrounding us. And that in our center, there is something, almost indescribably, that is beyond the physical nature surrounding us.

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Those of us who eat meat deal with yet another paradox. We prefer to buy the meat as small geometric objects wrapped in nylon, ready to be roasted or cooked. The meat iyself has been disassociated from the animals from which it is taken. In the days of the temple, people brought their finest well loved farm animals as sacrifices, and these sacrifices reminded them of the temporary nature of all life. It inspired them to contemplate on their own impermanent presence in this world.

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I am sure that many of the people lining up to buy commodities on Black Friday are hoping to bring joy to their loved ones. And that, of course, is a worth while endeavor. But I can’t help wonder of those who throng the malls, haven’t chosen to distract themselves from the universal questions that trouble a man’s soul. Are we still missing something we had in the temple?

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64 responses to “material goods

  1. As always, a beautiful post. You will be happy to hear that many of us here abhor the way Black Friday has entered the lexicon and wonder what is happening to our country. We are finding that soul-connection in another temple, perhaps. As we walk in nature we observe declines of species around us and indeed, contemplate those troubling questions. Of course some do not believe in a Holy God, and that is very sad for them I think. And some, here, believe they must harangue others to believe as they do and that is also sad for them.
    I think you are right. It is time to return to the temple.

    • Unfortunately, Melissa, because god is often described to children as some Santa Claus in the sky (and not always just to children), there are those who feel an obligation to challenge the belief in god. But rarely do we find such arguments against the existence of nature, mankind, or the existence of the universe. Though there are those who claim that the world only exists in our own heads. There doesn’t seem much point to argue about what exists and what’s an illusion, except for philosophical amusement. But I do think that there are values that we can all agree on. And I’m glad to hear of those who are unwilling to accept Black Friday as an important holiday. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Hi Dear Shimon…..the very thought of Black Friday gives me the eebie jeebies!

    Black Friday, which has only recently come to the UK, has already been embraced by many. Indeed, I heard on the news this lunchtime that there have been fights, injuries and general pandemonium in malls throughout the land.

    In response to this, the Police are saying that shops should have employed more security people! – I am aghast.

    There is no question that people are being aided by the huge, greedy conglomerates in the art of distraction, and it would seem that the more distractions available the more distractions are required, and so Black Friday joins a long line of other commercial, consumer driven events….as a means for the Fat Cats to get fatter and at the same time gain control over the general populace.

    Yes, it is time to return to the Temple.

    Love to you and Nechame…..Janet. x

    • Well, if people are humiliating themselves and fighting in the commercial centers on this day, that should bring a quicker rejection of this whole circus. I think many of us realize that commercialism has been leading us by the nose for some time now, and I do hope there will be a mass movement towards a different sort of life style soon. Though I have respect for the free market, and certain aspects of capitalism, I would use their emphasis on competition to claim that in the area of values and life styles there should be competition too. And that life can be much more ‘user friendly’ without the constant din of advertisement. Wishing you a beautiful week, my dear Janet. xxx

  3. I’ve never participated in Black Friday. I discovered long ago that shopping sales throughout the year saved me more money. It’s also been revealed that the best deals are the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I don’t shop on the Sabbath, so is it really any better? It was Franklin D. Roosevelt who tied consumerism to Thanksgiving. The holiday originally included the admonition to fasting and prayer.

    You raise a question too many find uncomfortable. We have become so detached from everything around us we must fabricate ways to feel connected. Sadly, too many people really don’t know from where the meat in the grocery freezer comes. I too often take it for granted. Thank you for the reminder. Enjoying shopping isn’t a bad thing; the problem is that too often it is a replacement for the connection that would satisfy more lastingly.

    May you and yours be blessed.

    • Hi there Judy. I agree with you, that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying shopping. Actually, I envy those who can enjoy it. But I like to buy what I need, and try not to be provoked or tempted to buy those things I don’t really need. Useless possessions can really weigh us down. And I have the feeling that a lot of us end up with a great amount of useless things, including food items that we don’t manage to consume. We’ve gotten so used to high pressure sales, that we don’t notice it anymore. And sometimes it’s quite misleading. When I visit a supermarket or a department store, I often feel as if I’ve been hypnotized. And it seems to me that what we need is a bit more tranquility. Thanks so much for your comment.

  4. Thanks should be given daily for what we have. Yes, gift giving can be satisfying for both the giver and receiver, but Black Friday is something that has evolved into something entirely different; it illustrates how disconnected some have become to what is real, and good, and for that which we should be thankful for. As a rounded a curving highway ramp on my way home yesterday evening, I was brought up face to face with a twilight scenery of hills in silhouette against a fading dusky blue sky tinged with pink that made me gasp at the beauty…I was alone in the car, but yelled out a thanks to the universe. And for things like that I am grateful every day.

    • Ah, that’s what we all need, Angeline. To be reminded of the beauty of nature, and the many things in life that can give us a high, or inspiration… including the things we already have, and that which is available without the use of a credit card. Thanks very much for your comment.

  5. I love your photos of the Haas promenade, Shimon. I don’t participate in Black Friday and never have. I plan to go for a hike with my family today and stay away from the malls as the weather forecast indicates a lovely and unusually warm November day here in Colorado. I’ve never understood Black Friday’s allure!

    • The allure seems to be getting something cheaper, or getting something for nothing. Which is fine, so long as it’s amusement, and we don’t lose our perspective. But like yourself, Cathy, when I know there’s going to be a big crowd somewhere, I look for other venues. But then, I’m not a sports buyer. I only go to the store, when I think I need something. Hope you had a wonderful hike with your family!

  6. I anticipate an enjoyable read when I see your blog posts and was ready when I saw the topic you chose today. Well done, sir. Well done.

  7. Looking back, it causes me no small measure of chagrin that there was a time in my life when I diligently marched off to the mall to purchase the finest tidbits that I could afford (and some that I had no business paying such ridiculous amounts of money for, such as a handbag costing several hundred dollars). I shake my head now and wonder how it was that I equated such nonsense with success, and how I always seemed to lust for more, and more, and more. Never enough; always wanting better and more expensive; buying into that ridiculous notion that the higher the price, the better the quality; the more coveted the item became, causing me to claw towards acquiring it as soon as humanly possible. Jewelry and fancy clothes for the kids; shoes that cost insane amounts of money. All the latest gadgets and gizmos, with shiny new cars to cart it all home.

    When I finally starting gaining some awareness, and saw that all these items were holding me hostage, and began waking up to the fact that they were a sad example of excess and wastefulness, not to mention that they left me feeling empty and confused, I began purging my life, slowly but surely. But even then, I still managed to confuse “want” with “need”, putting more items in the second category than necessary. Clinging to the remnants of another life.

    Now, at this point in my life, I’m no longer in a position to spend money on such baubles and trinkets, and even though I attempt to be more conscientious about my spending habits in a responsible manner, I still catch myself confusing wants and needs on a fairly regular basis. Or forgetting to give thanks for those non-monetary things in my life.

    I’ve tried to let go of regrets, but it is difficult to have to live with the knowledge that all those thousands of dollars could have helped some unfortunate person enjoy even the most basic of comforts. You can’t erase your past mistakes, no matter how hard you work at changing your current behavior. Nowadays most of my giving is done in increments of my time and attention, versus some sort of bauble or another that is purchased with the emptiest of all commodities; money.

    Black Friday is, at least, named appropriately. If you google the term, you’ll find pages and pages and pages of links to the latest sales being touted as the absolute best deal breakers of the century, encouraging you to go and spend, spend, spend. If you expand the search to include the history of Black Friday, you’ll find explanations about how the trampling of the hordes of people out shopping the day after Thanksgiving turned the streets of Philadelphia black with dust; or how the spending would make the difference between retail stores operating “in the red” versus “in the black” for the year, thus coining the term. Now it seems the term is synonymous with rude behavior, violence, excess, and rampant consumerism. For me, it symbolizes the darkening of our collective consciousness, so the term Black Friday seems more than appropriate.

    How naive of me not to recognize that it is a Western phenomenon. I suppose in some way I’ve always assumed all the various regions of the world “celebrated” their own versions of Black Friday. Of course it makes sense that this consumer-driven profit-generating custom originated in the West, where we live in the golden land of opportunity. Where acquisition has become the standard for how we value the barometer of our lives.

    I’m convinced we can do better. It is disheartening, sometimes, to have to acknowledge that the group of people with the most money are the ones who makes all the rules (but please don’t let me get started on politics). Black Friday is the symptom of a disease that continues to fester amongst our people, and it still makes me cringe with disgust and disappointment.

    Yes, I suppose the crux of the matter is that, in theory, giving is a process that can bring much happiness to both the giver, and the receiver, and that even the process of visiting all those stores and malls can provide some entertainment value. I don’t disagree with those concepts. I do, however, disagree with the idea that we should buy into the fallacy that spending huge gobs of money on a specific day translates to unbeatable value for our dollar, or that such an act of silliness equates to happiness. We are lost, and as you said yourself, we need to find our way back. One step at a time, and one dollar at a time. Your words always have a way of exploring various concepts in a respectful and measured way; mine are more clumsy and complaining, so I always appreciate seeing how it can be done. You give us an opportunity to view ideas with a fresh perspective. For that, I’m genuinely thankful. On this Friday, Black or not, it’s always good to hear your voice. Much appreciated, as always.

    • Unfortunately, Nancy, because we live in a free society, we are sometimes exposed to tasteless exhibitions, and are occasionally influenced by well planned pandemonium. The commercial industries have taken advantage of this. And the modern citizen can’t go through a day without being constantly assaulted and tempted and exhorted to buy things. It’s become a background noise that goes with us everywhere, and often we’re influenced without even realizing it. It doesn’t surprise me that you adopted such a life style. So many do, including intelligent thinking people. What is impressive, is that you managed to change habits and find more meaningful pursuits in life. Needs are an absolute. And wants can be good… they can add pleasure to our lives. But they can easily get out of hand, especially when there are commercial interests at play. And yes, I hope that the more outlandish this commercial drive becomes, the more it’ll become apparent to the public at large, that there are better ways to enjoy one’s time and money. Thanks so much for your comment.

  8. really good post, and some very revealing comments

  9. Robert D. Hayes, D.O.

    Hi Shimon.
    Intriguing post. This time, I wondered how much time did you spend here in the states, and if you spent time in any other countries. Your ability with the English language is intriguing in that case. Love the photos, can’t answer your question. With the advent of cell phone and computer technology, the malls are starting to slow down as we now shop online quite a lot, thus we spend more time with our families.
    Best to you and yours,
    Bob

    • Hi there Bob. I spent a couple of years in the US, and studied there as well, which helped me greatly with my English. But I did spend quite a bit of time in other countries too, trying to understand better what life is all about. Eventually I realized that if I stopped searching for adventure, the adventure would come after me… and that’s what’s happened for most of my adult life. Now I even have times where I try to evade the adventure… but it’s a stubborn entity… never relenting… always begging for my participation. And my best to you, my friend.

  10. Thank you for yet another lovely walk through the Haas promenade.

    Black Friday is something that neither Goddess or I are interested in, instead looking at it from a distance with a bit of horror. We just continue with our thanks for our many opportunities and good health.

    We wish the same for you.

    • I thought of the two of you, as I chose to post some pictures from this favorite place of mine… what a special experience we had there. Please give my regards to the Goddess. And I’m so glad to hear that you observe Black Friday from a distance. Is it just me, or does the name evoke stories of the Black Mass?

      • That’s quite an interesting way to think of it. Both worship something that gives the hope of a better life, but likely lead to a life of disappointment.

  11. We have our own sale day in Australia, Shimon. The day after Christmas people get hysterical and fight each other for the right to buy a fridge or a television set at discounted prices. I used to think that Boxing Day was a tribute to some boxer, but it seems that it has to do with employers giving their employees Christmas presents. Just as meaningless a celebration day as Black Saturday only less grim.

    I’ve never been to a sale. I can’t be bothered queuing up. But I have accumulated possessions. I think it’s hard to go through life without doing so. And when you’re young, of course, you don’t so much believe that you can’t take it with you as that you’re going to live forever. As you say, it’s not what you own but who you are that should count. The older I get, the less my possessions mean to me. Although in my case, I refer mainly to my books. I had a look at them after I read your post Shimon, and I realise that although I’ve read them all at some time or another, I hardly re-read them. Not ready to part with them yet, but I’m getting closer.

    • I do believe that possessions can be an unnecessary weight on a person, Mary. But I do have a rather large collection of books. And I consider them differently than most possessions. When I was already in middle age, there were books that I bought, thinking I would read them after I retired. And there were favorite books that I kept around… thinking I would like to reread them or visit them. And there were many times, when I doubted that I would ever open them again. But as it happened, I did get to some of them already. Including books I had read and had impressed me. Reading them a second time, in old age, was well worth it. I saw them from a different perspective. And in most cases, enjoyed them very much. I’ve also read most of the books that I thought I’d read after retirement. and was very glad to find them on my shelves. So I wouldn’t recommend getting rid of books. At least, not without a good deal of thought.

      As for sales, I’ve never gone to one myself. And I don’t believe I’ve missed anything. Thank you very mch for your comment, Mary.

  12. I’ve just been watching the TV news that featured images of Black Friday. Scuffles and fights by what I can only call ‘mobs’ over the cut-price goods. Best described as ‘Legalized looting’. I feel ashamed of the human race when I see scenes like this when half the world is starving.

    • I tend to keep the two issues separate. I realize there is great inequality in this world. And I am grateful for having had the chance to live in the western world, to have enjoyed the benefits of fine academic institutions, and a comfortable life style, and though it pains me that someone born in Biafra or certain states in Africa could never imagine having the life that I mostly took for granted. But there is nothing I can do to change this sad state of affairs.

      But on the other issue, Andy, I feel much the same as you do. I am embarrassed and ashamed when I hear of people fighting in a department store over luxuries and toys. I feel as if they’ve allowed themselves to be humiliated. And I resent the commercial interests that have responsibility for such a situation, and don’t stop the show the moment they understand how ugly it has turned out. I do believe that organized public opinion could put a stop to that. Thanks for your comment.

  13. Are we missing something we had in The Temple? This question raises all sorts of cultural and conflicting ideas. Whose temple is the first query that comes to mind. I think I can partly deal with the query and arising conundra, by viewing The Temple as a metaphor for a gathering of like peoples in many ‘temples,’ who, however much we would like to think the opposite, would never have been a perfect homogenous group resolving their issues and needs by simple unselfish sacrifices.
    Sport engenders gatherings of people into their appropriate ‘temples’. It keeps them occupied in one place at least once or twice a week, depending how many sports activities people are interested in. Think of all the associated commercial activity; sales of team hats, team shirts, the must have latest team colours, and so on. Think of all the excitement of the chase, the fight to the victory. Think of all the other organisational vested interests, also, the arguments and upsets along the way, some of them really nasty, amongst the ‘temple’ crowds.
    Ancient societies like modern societies were imperfect, competitive, manipulative and demanding. Acquisitive elements are in the survival toolbox of homo sapiens and express themselves in a myriad of levels and manner. Kick-starting Xmas shopping quickly on the heels of Thanksgiving in America with Black Friday sales shopping,(a retail discount sale day now creeping further afield because of the influence of international internet business and in part because beleaguered businesses want part of the action to keep afloat) is certainly a clear expression of the elements of human behaviour mentioned above. Sadly,we would also see and do see these behaviours in other less attractive environments.
    The question lies in the realms of philosophical thought. Like just about any philosophical question I have come across, I conclude that I cannot come to any fixed answers, Shimon.

    • Thank you very much, menhir, for your important and very serious comment. Truly, when I mentioned the temple, I was referring to the role of spiritual leadership in this physical world. But I was also thinking of our own culture, and what the temple had meant for us Jews; both in the past, and in our longings today. But I am also aware of many cases of corruption that existed at the time of the temple. Of course, all Christians are aware of Jesus throwing the money lenders out of the temple. But there were also cases in which high priests ‘bought’ their positions, and numerous other examples of corruption. So it wasn’t perfect. And maybe I shouldn’t have even brought it into the discussion. But it did represent an effort to deal with the ever present paradoxes that are a part of people’s lives in all cultures. It offered a system of dealing with guilt, with our knowledge that our lives are temporary, and with different health and mental health problems. For most of the time, it did work. And the system provided encouragement for greater awareness, connection to community, and ‘giving’ as a method of finding peace, rather than buying, and collecting possessions. I do have great regard for the freedom of the west, and for the free enterprise system. But I feel that the commercial activity that is an integral part of our life style, has gotten out of hand, and has become a bit offensive. I hope that it’ll work out by itself. I don’t have much faith in revolutions. But I also believe that the spiritual and religious institutions have lost their independence and their importance to most of the population. And I’d like to see more choices available when it comes to life style.

      What you say about sports is quite right. But I think it a terrible mistake that we allowed sports to be compromised by commercial considerations. And the same goes for other institutions that offer competitive activity which is meant to bring peace and happiness to the human soul. Our society provides highways, and a sewage system, and offers some sort of general aid to those to weak to help themselves. I believe that in the same spirit, it should also offer certain intellectual and spiritual enjoyments to the public at large, in order to avoid the influence of commercial interests in all social activities. Again, I really enjoyed your comment.

  14. Black Friday is a day I stay at home. If I need anything, I would probably buy it on the computer as shopping is not one of those things I enjoy. To just walk around a business looking at things doesn’t excite me. I like to explore places and learn their history, but have no desire to fight crowds of people for objects to purchase. You are lucky to be far, far away.

    • I feel pretty much the same way, Bev. Don’t care much for shopping. And don’t like to be in crowds, either. Even if they’re not fighting, and are in the best mood. There is something about a crowd that makes me uncomfortable. And like yourself, I enjoy exploring, love learning… and learning history especially. But I have to say, that even though Black Friday hasn’t yet gotten to Israel, we do have those heavy shopping times… usually about a week before any major holiday. I try to stay away from those too. Thanks for the comment.

  15. The possesions that I have accumulated have been mostly for sentimental reason. While I am finding it easier to let go these days, it is nice to be able to pick up most things I own and being able to recount a story where I was essentially blessed.

    As for your question, yes! I do think some people substitute materialism for spiritualism. Sadly, I also a lot of people don’t find the temple when they go to the temple, if you know what I mean. I’ve had experiences like that myself, and it’s so troubling. I know it’s difficult, but it’s so important to leave ego at the door, I think…

    • I know what you mean Jess. But I give a lot of credit for intention. There’ve been situations in our town, when some religious guy has been caught doing something illegal. And then some non religious folks would protest in outrage, ‘how could he do that? He’s supposed to be religious?’ There’s not that much difference between the religious and the non religious people. The religious have temptations too. And sometimes they fail to live up to their standards. And the non religious often do good deeds, and the very things that the religious hold in high regard. I think the biggest difference is that of faith, and a commitment to an ideal. And it seems to me that it’s something like the difference between being a pessimist or an optimist. Both have to accept the reality. But one relates to the unknown with an expectation of good, and the other is cautious at first. Thanks for the comment.

      • I totally agree. I love your perspective on it! In the end we’re all only human, we just approach things from different angles sometimes. Thanks for the response 🙂

  16. The glaring dichotomy of giving thanks for all one has while planning to shop for more of all one has, creates a lot of dissonance for me was well. We are beginning to move away from gifts (except for our soon-to-be-born granddaughter and any others who follow G-d willing) and providing time and resources to the charities of our childrens’ choice. It is a small gesture that will hopefully begin to move us away from this society’s focus on ‘more’. The ‘more’ in and of itself is of questionable quality and import to one’s life.
    Your photos are fantastic as always and your thoughts, welcome and candidly shared. Thank you Shimon..

    • Thank you so much for your kindness, Mimi. I think the biggest problem of possessions, is that they weigh us down. One can enjoy a big house, and beautiful gardens, and fine utensils, furniture, and art works. They are all good. But they demand a lot of care. The more possessions we have, the more time and effort we have to put in to take care of it all. Even if we have servants to help us with the load, we then have to look out for the welfare of those servants. But only a very few are so independent that they can be comfortable with the minimum. Still, in modern western society, acquiring beautiful things has become synonymous with pleasure. And many of us have great excess, including things that we don’t use or enjoy at all. In such a case, it is very much in the person’s interest, to lighten the weight. Thank you very much for the comment, and blessings on the arrival of the new granddaughter.

  17. My hub and I have remarked for many years on the similarities of shopping malls (as the Americans call them) to churches and similar places of worship. Even the architecture is reminiscent of church. People go to worship the gods of materialism. They hope to have a good experience and to come out feeling better and possessing something they didn’t have before. All good things to ruminate on, especially as we Christians get nearer to Christmas.

    • Yes, that is exactly what I was thinking when I wrote this post, Gill. That there are many faiths in this world, and many different types of churches. And that materialism has put up their own churches… And that in this age, they are attracting a lot of followers. But that in my opinion, what they are selling is an illusion. Christmas is certainly a good time to compare the messages we are getting.

  18. I didn’t know too dear Shimon 🙂 This was a nice post, as always. Thank you, have a nice weekend, love, nia

    • Thanks so much, Nia. Glad you liked the post, and my best wishes to you for a good week, and all the pleasures that accompany adventure, and looking for the beautiful, as you do.

  19. Konrad Lorenz wrote a book called “The Waning of Humaneness” but now we need a book called The Waning of Humanness.The people are like animals fighting for food or life.Somehow it reminds me of the Roman Colloseum.
    Animals were killed up to 5,000 a day for entertainment not as an offering t the gods…. people too.
    I wonder if it is making people at the top feel superio as hey watch videos of these poor people trying to get computers and tablets for their children ,vacuum cleaners and big flat screen TVs.
    You have to be extremely superior not to want or need these things for your family or to save yourself from feeling like rubbish.
    There was a big advantage to belief in God… before God all souls were equal.Spiritual wealth was not connected to personal wealth.
    There is genuine poverty here yet the temptations of material goods are advertised cunningly using all means including manlpulation of the mind.One of Freud’s family was among the first to use the notions of the Unconscious in advertising and no doubt in propaganda.
    I shall sacrifice some fleas tonight as that is all I have right now.It’s the thought that counts.Uno,duo,tres……

    • I enjoyed reading the books and learning from Konrad Lorenz. He had many very interesting things to point out to us. And I agree with you, that just as science and technology has been used to produce money making toys, so the study of psychology has been used to manipulate and tempt the masses. I don’t believe that the people at the top need to see common folks humiliate themselves in order to feel superior. Very often, they too fall victims to the materialistic propaganda and waste their wealth on worthless possessions. It seems to me, a cultural phenomenon. And I do believe that in a free society, we can work together to pull people in another direction. Have faith, Katherine. Things may change sooner than we expect.

  20. It amazes me also that at a time of thanksgiving, people can be so mean to one another and the scenes that one sees and reads about in the papers are just shameful. I have no religious inclination whatsoever, but I respect those who do and find comfort in their faith, but I don’t think I could ever put my greed in front of hurting someone just to get that item I simply must have.

    As a child, I never enjoyed any luxuries, toys or clothes or holidays abroad and we didn’t have a family car, but I always took pride in my large family and worshiped my siblings: that’s what really made me happy, having a laugh with them and enjoying silly games together, which were free.

    I fear that a similar fenomenon occurs in the western world around Christmas time, as the original Christian meaning seems to have been lost in favour of commercial goods and the shops keep jamming it down our throats from November onwards, decorating their premises and playing Christmas carols a whole month before the event. It sickens me and try to avoid it as much as I can, but even the supermarkets put their Xmas trees up in November! Then we have Boxing day in GB, on 26th December, when all goods go on a massive sale and people queue overnight just to get their hands on an expensive bag or item of clothing that they couldn’t afford otherwise. Surely that time would be better spent going for a long walk with your dear ones. I don’t get it. Sad, sad world indeed.

    • I really don’t know much about Black Friday. I just read a couple of items in the news, and understood that people come in the middle of the night, and that there are long lines in front of department stores… and crowds that are hard to deal with. Of course, the occasional fracas makes things just worse. And though I haven’t actually seen the behavior of these people, from what I’ve heard about it, it sounds like an addiction, or the behavior of people in a frenzy. And this makes me think that the people themselves have been led into a self-destructive mind set, and that they have, momentarily at least, lost all sense of proportion and their own dignity. I feel sorry for them. I think they’re likely to spend more than they have, squandering their money on nonsense. And I see those who are drumming up the business as responsible for the mayhem. It seems strange to me, that a society that punishes drunk driving, and intervenes at times in the personal lives of the citizens, would turn a blind eye to such a disgusting scene.

      I enjoyed reading about your youth and childhood family, Fatima. The values that you mention are those that I admire in my own society, and also what I remember from youth. I remember, here in Jerusalem, when a refrigerator was a very rare appliance, and people would come and visit the home of a more wealthy family in order to listen to phonograph records. Yet in those days, despite the so called poverty, people were generally happier, and were able to find pleasure in very simple things. Thanks so much for your comment.

      • I couldn’t agree more with your comment. I do feel sorry for these people. They seem to have lost their soul somewhere along the way and a human being without a soul is no longer human.

  21. I must say that I was shocked at the behaviour of some here re Black Friday…..news coverage showed people actually fighting over goods!
    I loathe shopping, especially in malls, there is far too much choice and I get too bored with it all, I do enjoy quirky smalls shops, bookshops and garden centres though.
    Yes, there is something inside us that is hard to define, maybe many feel a void that they try to fill with pastimes like shopping or tv….maybe they have been brought up like that and have no idea how to find real meaning and fulfilment in life…we do seem to live in an increasingly shallow world, also a very scientific one which pushes the idea of a soul ever further away.
    An interesting post as always, I love the pics, the light is still so good….it’s becoming gloomy light wise here.xxx

    • Once again we have something in common. I don’t enjoy shopping very much either. Actually I could say I loathe it too. And I think you’ve really put your finger on a very basic issue, Dina. Because I don’t enjoy shopping to begin with, it’s much harder to tempt me. And so, I dare not be indignant about the behavior of those crowds. They do like to shop. There are things I am passionate about, and unfortunately, time passes too quickly for me to do the many things I wish to do,, and try to do at times. So you can be sure, I’m not looking for a pastime. But if someone was looking for a way to pass the time, I can imagine that shopping might be entertaining. And not just entertaining… anyone who looks at those advertisements, realizes at once that you can save a lot at the same time. The more you buy, the more you save. So it’s both a pastime, and a constructive occupation. Why, if you bought enough, you wouldn’t even have to work! And that would give you more time for buying. Now that I’ve thought about it, I have to go out and recommend it to all my friends… of course, I’m just referring to those looking for a pastime…

  22. Of all the theologians in the world, Martin Luther is my favorite. He’s accessible, plain-spoken and entirely human, as well as being remarkably insightful.

    In his explication of the first commandment, he says, “…confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust be right, then is your god also true; and, on the other hand, if your trust be false and wrong, then you have not the true God; for these two belong together faith and God. That now, I say, upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god.”

    He goes on to add,” Many a one thinks that he has God and everything in abundance when he has money and possessions; he trusts in them and boasts of them with such firmness and assurance as to care for no one. Lo, such a man also has a god, Mammon by name, i.e., money and possessions, on which he sets all his heart, and which is also the most common idol on earth.”

    There’s a reason everything from large office buildings to shopping malls came to be called “temples of commerce.” Plunk a golden calf into the middle of a mall, and the picture is complete. Purchasing goods or services to sustain life and make it more enjoyable is one thing. Buying for the sake of buying is something else.

    I’ve not participated in Thanksgiving weekend sales for decades. Just yesterday, I heard that sales were down by 11% nationwide last Friday. I suspect more and more people are coming to believe that the chaos and hype just aren’t worth it. It’s a small sign, but a sign nonetheless.

    • As a student, I had great interest in other religions, including idolatry. I learned that many religions borrowed concepts from others, and sometimes tried to placate their followers by accepting customs that came from other cultures. Anthropologists have suggested that there are certain needs that keep popping up in the affairs of man, and it may be that some sort of faith or devotion is just too human to be left behind. I agree with the quote you’ve shared with us. We’ve seen communism become something of a religion, and then disappoint its followers. And materialism is one of the enduring faiths among many cultures. It could be that by exaggerating the ‘sale’ mentality and the hard sell on Black Friday, the manipulators have gotten a boomerang effect. But it seems to me that material pleasures are so much an integral part of human behavior, that we will see it as an important influence on the affairs of man for many years to come. Thanks very much for your comment shoreacres.

  23. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, as always. I think that “buying for the sake of buying” is a slippery slope, and it’s very hard to control one’s descent down this path. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have completely passed me by, without my having spent a single cent. 🙂 Be well, Shimon.

    • Yes, fortunately we are not all tempted by the selling techniques, no matter how slick they get. And free choice remains our most precious advantage. Thanks very much for your good wishes, and my best to you too.

  24. For starters, love your photos, especially the first, fourth, and fifth ones .. .and the opening pic wonderfully pulled me into the post.

    One FYI about Black Friday … Black refers to profits for the retailers.

    Black Friday is one thing, but during the past few years, the stores are opening on Thanksgiving – usually in the evenings or later. I grew up in an era that stores were closed on holidays, so I don’t approve store hours creeping into the holiday itself. Personally, I stay away from the shopping areas on the entire holiday weekend.

    I appreciate your words about materialism. Yes … something deeper must be lacking.

    • Thanks for your kind words about my photography, Frank, and for the explanation of the name of this commercial holiday. I too, don’t care much for crowds. And personally, when I choose to buy something, I like to buy from a store where I know they will take a certain responsibility for the products they sell. There are other considerations, I believe, aside from the cheapest price. Thanks for your comment.

  25. Black Friday folks are, in my opinion, quite mad. We are overwhelmed in this country (the States) by materialism and the multi-media ads bombarding the senses (and common sense) every moment of every day. There was a time in my life when I was an excellent consumer and could shop the malls for hours. Somewhere along the way, I changed. Somewhere along the way, the realization dawned that we ‘need’ so little, but have been brainwashed into thinking each new/improved/better product is a must-have. I tired of it and remain a staunch cynic and critic of commercialism.. Commercialism is rampant here and worsens each day with any and every idea that will sell whatever ‘it’ is. For the most part, much of that is wasted on me, thank goodness. My husband has Parkinson’s, so we no longer travel as we used to.These days, my time is filled with other activities..More than ever, I find I’m happy with a good book, being with/talking with friends, teaching my computer classes, painting or crafting, or doing something that will bring a smile to someone. Oh, dear. That sounds so (as we say in the south) ‘well, aren’t WE precious?’ (insert sarcasm), but it’s also true. I don’t waste my time on envy and have decided that getting older is, in many ways, comfortable. I have no answers in re to worship or religion, and see I’ve rambled here and there, as is my wont at times. Nevertheless, I enjoyed your post, your lovely photographs (peaceful, they are), and the many thoughtful responses. Thank you, Shimon.- and those who took time to respond.

    • Thanks very much for taking part in the discussion, Myra. And if you ramble a bit, you’re very welcome to do so… there’s something fascinating to me about the conversational possibilities of blog comments. I too, have changed quite a few of my attitudes as time has passed. I do have respect for the values of others, even when they value things that I don’t. A free market and competition have advantages/ I consider it a good system. But that doesn’t excuse obnoxious behavior. Even if I’m interested in a certain radio or television show, if it’s overflowing with advertisement, I will often prefer some other entertainment. People considering sales, should also consider how comfortable the circumstances will be, and whether he can trust the word of the salesman. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

  26. The “Black Friday is getting worst”, I said that 10 years ago. And, it’s ridiculous… These are great photos, Mr. Shimon. Have a great weekend.

    • I’m hoping that as the big sell gets coarser, it becomes more apparent to most people, that this isn’t an opportunity, but a cynical device to manipulate them… and that it will lose its attraction. Thanks Amy, for your kind words about my photos. My best wishes to you too.

  27. I always enjoy reading your meditations. I’m thankful that you don’t have Black Friday. Sadly, now many stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day – later in the day to get a head start on the shopping frenzy. We have lost our way.

    • Frenzy is the word I was looking for, yearstricken. It seems the marketing tactics are leading to some kind of madness. But as it gets more radical, I imagine that most people will be able to see through it. Thanks for your comment.

  28. A beautiful, thought-provoking post. I live here in the west of course and am quite familiar with Black Friday and the way it sometimes brings out the very worst in people. It’s very ironic how black Friday comes right after Thanksgiving because one is all about gratitude and the other all about getting stuff. I’m reading Leviticus right now and about the requirements regarding temple sacrifices so I found your perspective in this post very interesting.

    • Thank you so muchm Kari Ann, for reminding me of Thanksgiving, which is also unknown here, but I did have an opportunity to encounter it when I was visiting your country. It is a beautiful holiday, and personally, was an important part of my American experience. I think looking at both these days puts thing into a better proportion.

  29. Hello ShimonZ. I found your blog through a comment you made on Mike’s memoir (the one from Brooklyn). I usually don’t make time to browse people’s blog stories and now realize what I have been missing. How fascinating to be able to read firsthand accounts of foreign places and touch the hearts of human beings around the world. I am a big believer in the power of story to overcome all sorts of differences. I am blessed by your insights, and also encouragement of those who comment.

    • Thanks very much for coming by, and for your comment. I know from personal experience that browsing through blogs, or even searching out subjects on the internet, can take a lot of time. Which goes to show us that there are always two sides to everything. This media opens up so many possibilities, that we have to be judicious about choices and interests.

  30. I so enjoyed reading this blog post Shimon, thank you. It has taken me a few weeks to comment. It’s a feeling of disassociation from ourselves and our centre that pervades our many societies, like the meat neatly packaged in the polystyrene boxes. A walk in nature is inspiring, like the fresh air that flows through your blog. ❤

    • Thanks very much Jane, for your kind words. The great leap forward of technology in the past 50 years has changed much in the world we’re living in… including life styles. And I have the feeling that it will take a while till we find a really comfortable way to live with all the possibilities. The food too, is not the same food that human beings ate for hundreds and thousands of years in the past..

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