Thanksgiving Day "Black Thursday" is now a memory. It wasn't the bust some retailers feared. I, myself, who have avoided Black Fridays like the Bubonic Plague, peeked into Walmart on an evening walk working off curiosity and the second portion of pecan pie.
At best, it was organized chaos with snaking lines of brimming carts. Thankfully, shoppers seemed subdued, perhaps digesting the turkey tryptophan or glazed ham. The pilgrims would be happy there were no stampedes.
While I don't begrudge the retailer relief, I sigh, though, for the national gestalt. For my two cents, another incremental step of noise and distraction had been added to an already disquieted world. After all, Thanksgiving is more than just a day for family but for reflection and rejuvenation.
Everyday life is inundated with busyness, complexity, noise and incessant material urges. On a national day of gratitude for all our enduring gifts, need we fight the crowds for more "stuff?"
Could Christmas Day be the next to fall to the relentless economic machine of consumerism driving our world? Will people think, "Hey, I went to morning service and it's midday. I'm itching for a sale!"
Fanciful scenario? Admittedly so, but in a world where national retailers toyed with calling Christmas trees "holiday trees" anything is possible.
Consider Joe Lieberman, the former senator from Connecticut and vice presidential candidate under Al Gore, who wrote a compelling book called "The Gift of Rest; Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath." Admittedly, Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, goes a great deal further in his observance than most people would ever consider. He not only not refuses working unless urgent, but turns off his Blackberry, avoids cars, and even darkens house lights.
What I find most interesting in his book, though, is the senator's less extreme argument for nonreligious people. Lieberman says that having a day a week of rest not only aids spiritual rejuvenation but makes plain physical and psychological sense. After all, aren't we always "on," forever thinking, worrying, planning, wired and connected? Who couldn't use a pause, a momentary break, to rejuvenate; maybe have some time to think on the greater import of life.
My wish for our great country, then, is not to dampen the shopping fever. No, there are plenty of days for cash register euphoria and now Black Friday never looked so good.
I submit, though, that for our mental collective well-being, if nothing else, we get back to the Sabbath, or if we will, Day of Pause. Meantime, I hope we can start by keeping at least a few days dear: Thanksgiving, Christmas (for those of other persuasions, the likes of Passover or Ramadan).
It's a mad, mad, mad world. A little centering is maybe what the good doctor ordered.
Walter Ruehlig is an Antioch resident.