Friday, December 31, 2010

What The Hell Is Wrong With Us? (Or, "My Christmas Rant")

    Before I explain the title of my blog, and let you in on my innermost ruminations, I want to wish each of you a Happy New Year; a good year; a better year in every respect.  And since I took the week between Christmas and New Years off, I’ve had some time to reflect on the state of my world, and I was surprised at what I discovered.
     First of all, I think we all have high expectations for Christmas.  Maybe it comes from the anticipation we experienced as children.  But this year I was so disillusioned with Christmas.  And here are my reasons:  The country is bankrupt from debt and yet I saw hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people flocking to malls in San Antonio and Austin to charge more debt on their credit cards.  They purchased inferior products made in China, which only improves that country’s import side of the ledger and drives the U.S. further into debt.  When did we stop caring about quality and meaning?
     Right now I’m leaning towards starting new Christmas traditions.  Beyond a wonderful Christmas Eve service at my church and watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “The Homecoming”, my view of Christmas was somewhat jaded this year.  It seemed all about money, quantity of things, more inferior products from China, texting, cell phones and football.  None of this said a damn thing about Christmas! It says more about how we’ve taken something as beautiful as Christmas and twisted it into a tortured mess.
      My personality is geared towards languishing in a situation until I’ve had enough, then I make big changes.  For instance, right now I’m pondering just how to simplify my life further, and I find myself wanted to sell all the “pointless stuff” I’ve acquired, just to de-clutter my existence.
     Make no mistake, I’m as guilty as anyone and this rant can be directed right at the “man in the mirror”.  I had a privileged middle class upbringing, and was not deprived, or wanting for much.  But I also feel that there used to be more significance given to the meaning of Christmas and the traditions.  It was about “feeling” Christmas, not about “buying” Christmas.  And somehow, things just feel different in today’s world.

     Do we really need this year’s Coach purse? (It’s overpriced—and still made in China!)  Or the newest, latest and greatest snow boot with a faux fur top?  Does a gift card from Anthropology really say something about our Christmas beliefs or how much I love you?
     Next year will be different for me.  I don’t know what that means exactly, or what form “different” will take, but my Christmases to come won’t involve “A Christmas Story” with a BB gun, football, or China. 
     I chose to be an artist so I could play life’s game on a somewhat self-directed field.  I didn’t like being crammed into that safe little corporate box, and now I see myself being boxed in again through the clever machinations of advertising executives.  Something is missing from the simple Christmases we enjoyed as kids, when all it took to satisfy us was a trip to sit on Santa’s lap and whisper our fondest dreams in his ear.  Where did it go? 
     We’ve lost our innocence (from Christmas to country) and have no idea where to look for it.  Is it like King Arthur’s Holy Grail?  Right there in front of us the whole time, but unable to be grasped? 
     Through the chaos of the holidays, my recurring theme was “I wonder what my cowboy friends are doing?  I bet they’ve got a handle on what’s really important.  They get out there and grab life and live it.  And they don’t get boxed in by technology, or shopping, or all the worthless crap.  I think I’ll take a lesson.”
     To prove my point, tomorrow I want to post a Christmas letter from my friend, Lowell Goemmer.  If you have my coffee table book, he’s on page 107, in a painting titled Crash.  His letter will provide some hope that, as a culture, we still know what’s important.  Tune in for a laugh and a unique outlook on life.

All content © Mark Kohler Studio.


  1. Mark, I could NOT agree with you more on your "rant"!!! Bravo!

  2. That's a big part of my beef with the season, in general. And the "more festive than thou" vein that runs through. (I couldn't bring myself to type "festiver.")

    That said, I have to say that I did make out like a bandit this Christmas, as I guess I do every Christmas. Knowing my parents personally, I know that you understand that. :-)

    However, this year, the majority if my gifts were art related and the underlying message of support in that area was worth more than the dollar amount of those gifts combined, one-thousand-fold.

  3. AMEN, Mark!

    Our family had gotten caught up in the commercialized Christmas for years. This year, we all agreed to a name exchange for one gift and set a reasonable purchase price. We all agreed that this was the best Christmas! The focus changed from gifts to meaning of the season, family, spending quality time together, and of course wonderful eats.

    Since it was such a hit, we've already drawn names for next year!

  4. I agree, Mark. After you made fun of my Coach tennis shoes, I was so embarrassed, I threw them away! I just thought they were cute. I didn't know anyone knew what they were. From now on I'm shopping at Target...and occasionally the Jenny Longhorn Western Boutique.