Happy Day after Thanksgiving. Hopefully you’re rested; that the Tryptophan has induced a good night (or half day and then full night) of sleep; that this Friday morning finds you anywhere but shopping at Target or Best Buy.
Don’t get me wrong: there are gifts to find. I’m just hoping you’ll find them outside the crowded box stores and teeming masses of mothers who will cut you for whatever toy is supposed to be worth its weight in violence this year.
This is no anti-capitalist statement. I’m not looking to end up on Glenn Beck’s socialist conspiracy chalkboard (though I’d wear that as a badge of honor and really be touched if he cried when he mentioned my name. I have attended churches that actively seek social justice, so I’m probably a candidate for his list, along with Olbermann’s Worst Person Ever distinction).
Actually, I’m more interested in encouraging people to go find something beautiful. Walk hand-in-hand with a spouse or partner they haven’t seen in awhile. Take their kids to the most beautiful part of the place they call home and actually stay still long enough to enjoy it. Be thankful in the ability we have, as fleeting as it may be, to spend a moment just spending a moment.
Recently, I attended a dinner with John Polkinghorne, a quantum physicist and Anglican priest (and no, those are not mutually exclusive endeavors, but I digress…). Mostly, I spent the evening trying not to prove the academic stereotypes about creative writers true. But I was particularly intrigued by one of Polkinghorne’s assertions.
He said, to be a great scientist or clergyperson – and I read this as a great (fill in the blank) – one must “engage the aesthetic experience.”
In other words, really living means tasting the beautiful rather than gorging ourselves on material things that so rarely provide anything beyond the want of more material joy than they will ever provide. As a writer, these ideas are second nature. I’m just not used to hearing them from a guy who was talking about quarks in the next breath.
Which is why, I think, I’m writing this. Crass consumerism has got nothing on a sunset over the Pacific or snowfall on Lake Michigan. And while Money Never Sleeps (I’m told), it’s no substitute for the time we lose chasing and spending it.
Michael Dean Clark is an author of fiction and nonfiction and an Assistant Professor of Writing at Point Loma Nazarene University. He lives in San Diego with his wife and 2.7 children.