The holiday season is quickly approaching its climax, with people storming the malls and local businesses, taking advantage of sales or getting last-minute gifts (maybe an Elsa doll for a daughter or niece, or an ugly necktie for a husband). As people are concerning themselves about how much they’re spending or whether they have enough gifts for everyone, I’m wondering what the point of it all is. My own apartment is half full with bags of gifts for my extensive family and friends, unwrapped gifts with post-it-note labels telling me who I have gifts for.
A scene from my favorite book comes to mind during this time: in Antoine de Saint Exupery’s Le Petit Prince, the little prince is traveling from his home on Asteroid B-612 and stops on a planet where he finds a businessman counting stars. The businessman claims he is counting the stars because he owns the stars. This will make him rich enough to buy more stars. This pointless cycle is his matter of consequence.
Christmas time makes it evident that numbers are important. Prices, number of gifts, number of family members, number of Christmas cards. Numbers, numbers, numbers. Quantity, quantity, quantity. But what if we made what truly matters in life – spending time with family and friends – the important thing, and leave gifts for the backburner? The weight of a significant other’s hand in your own, the warmth of a family member’s hug, the happiness you feel when you are with people you care about – these are true matters of consequence.