Login
Skip to content

Faith in Vermont: Lessons from a Lightsaber

  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 1118.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field::query() should be compatible with views_handler::query($group_by = false) in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_field.inc on line 1148.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 165.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 165.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort::query() should be compatible with views_handler::query($group_by = false) in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 165.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 599.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::query() should be compatible with views_handler::query($group_by = false) in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 599.
  • strict warning: Non-static method views_many_to_one_helper::option_definition() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_many_to_one.inc on line 25.
  • strict warning: Non-static method views_many_to_one_helper::option_definition() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_many_to_one.inc on line 25.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_query::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_query.inc on line 181.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 136.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 1118.
  • strict warning: Declaration of image_attach_views_handler_field_attached_images::pre_render() should be compatible with views_handler_field::pre_render($values) in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/image/contrib/image_attach/image_attach_views_handler_field_attached_images.inc on line 112.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_area::query() should be compatible with views_handler::query($group_by = false) in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_area.inc on line 81.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_area_text::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_area_text.inc on line 121.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 1118.
  • strict warning: Non-static method views_many_to_one_helper::option_definition() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_many_to_one.inc on line 25.
  • strict warning: Non-static method views_many_to_one_helper::option_definition() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_many_to_one.inc on line 25.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_style_default.inc on line 24.

Posted on December 6, 2016 | Blog Category:
By Faith Gong



The cultural world of our daughters – our two oldest daughters, in particular – currently revolves around the Star Wars saga. They have watched four of the seven films created by George Lucas: a multi-generational epic of the Skywalker family’s adventures on the dark and light sides of the Force, “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” They have read every book about Star Wars that they can get ahold of, including a biography of Lucas himself. They are so well versed in Star Wars trivia that they know the backstory of every minor character, can sketch out the Star Wars galaxy from memory, and measure time in terms of B.B.Y. (Before the Battle of Yavin) and A.B.Y. (After the Battle of Yavin.)

Last month, one of our daughters celebrated a birthday (Star Wars-themed, of course.) Her aunt and uncle gave her an online gift certificate for Amazon.com. It was hardly a surprise when she decided to use that gift to buy herself a lightsaber: the weapon of choice for both Jedi and Sith.

She spent a great deal of time perusing the lightsaber options. “I want to make sure that it’s not junky,” she explained. She counted the days until it was delivered to our doorstep. When the chosen lightsaber arrived, it was all that she had wanted: an extendable blade, complete with lights and sound effects.

Several minutes later, I was preparing to break down the lightsaber box for recycling when this same daughter approached me with a melancholy expression.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she sighed. “I guess the lightsaber’s just not as exciting as I expected.”

And I thought: Isn’t that always the way?

We are smack in the middle of the great season of consumption. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, the National Retail Federation expects Americans to spend a total of $655.8 billion – a little more than Saudi Arabia’s GDP for all of 2015. These sales will represent almost 20% of total retail industry sales for the year. In a mere 30 days, the average American is predicted to shell out $936 on gifts and food.

A good deal of this buying is holiday generosity, of course. But the holidays aren’t the only time Americans shop, as the $5 trillion projected figure for total retail sales in 2016 indicates.

So, why do we buy? Sometimes it’s for items that we need, but I believe that a good deal of the time we make purchases for the same reason as my daughter: because we think they’ll make us happier, or make our lives more exciting, or somehow fill in those gaping holes of loneliness and insecurity that are a universal part of being human.

It never works, does it? Sure, these items may give us a feel-good rush at first, but even the best things in life wear out, break down, get lost, or lose our interest over time. Because they’re just things.

So when my daughter came to me with her lightsaber letdown, I thought about the universality of her experience. Then, I studied my daughters to see what things in life didn’t leave them bored and disillusioned after two minutes. What I learned applies to children and grown-ups alike. And it doesn’t apply only to buyers’ remorse, but to any situation in which reality fails to meet our expectations (holiday celebrations, for instance, or perhaps a recent Presidential election.)

So, friends, here are my three cures for those “lightsaber letdowns:”

1. Community. The biggest reason my daughter gave for her disappointment over her lightsaber was: “My sisters don’t have one, so I don’t have anyone to play with.” The kneejerk fix to this would be to order three additional lightsabers on the double. But wait a minute! Do you see what she’s saying? The real point is: Nothing is as fun if you do it alone. Community fills our human need for a sense of identity, affirmation, and belongingness so much better than any thing ever could. (And it’s also essential if you need to stage a galactic battle between the forces of good and evil.)

2. Nature. You know what never gets old for my daughters? Looking out the window. The day before Thanksgiving, we hung a squirrel-shaped birdseed cake (a gift from a friend) on a tree outside our kitchen window. I am afraid to research the ethics of this, knowing that I may be chastised for spoiling birds that need to be able to forage for their own food. (In my defense, I will say that we plan only to feed the birds who stick around for the winter in our frozen northlands, not make this a year-round thing.) In any event, once the birds found the seeds, it was better than television at our house. Our daughters were – and still are – ecstatic over every new bird who came to feed. The bird book came out, and we watched, enthralled by the dynamics between the chickadees, tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, and hairy woodpeckers.

This is only the latest of so many examples I’ve witnessed of how the natural world never fails to excite, heal, and teach. Although I often have to force my daughters to go outside (i.e. kick them out of the house), it is amazing how they can entertain themselves with just a grassy field and some trees. They never come inside disappointed.

3. Creativity. If I had to do it all over again, the only gifts I would buy for my daughters are books, Legos, and craft supplies; these are the only things they never seem to tire of.

But you know what else they never tire of? Boxes.

I never did get to break down that lightsaber box; another daughter claimed it. And the next time I saw it, my girls had used some empty oatmeal cartons and toilet paper and paper towel rolls to transform it into a car (it later turned into a rocketship.)

This is one of parenting’s big ironies: That our children are often more excited about the box than the gift it contains. Why? Because anybody can give you a present, but only you can take a box and create exactly the car/rocketship/house you’ve always wanted.

Far more fulfilling than the things we’re handed are the things we make ourselves.

Are you feeling stressed by a non-stop life? Depressed over election results? Overwhelmed by the pressure to make everyone else – and yourself – perfectly happy by way of the perfect present? Me, too.

So let’s take a step back. Let’s get together with some people. Let’s look out the window for a few minutes – or, better yet, get outside. Let’s create something: a meal, a hat or scarf, a picture, a newspaper column. Then, let’s consider whether these things fill our empty better than any thing.

May the Force be with you.

 

Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit manager. She lives in Middlebury with her husband, four daughters, and one anxiety-prone labradoodle. In her "free time," she writes for her blog, The Pickle Patch.

Connect with us