I am the first to admit that I am a bit cynical about shopping in general and malls in particular. For the most part, I simply don’t like buying stuff, and I have no knack for it, even when purchasing gifts. I have had to work my way up from giving well-intentioned presents of fluorescent lightbulbs, which went over about as well as if I had wrapped up a toilet plunger for my wife.
I marvel, then, as the Christmas shopping season begins, at how our culture has managed to make such an ideal out of emptying our bank accounts and filling our homes””and eventually a landfill””with things we mostly do not need. As Colin Beavan, the author of No Impact Man, points out in his reflections on his family’s year-long experiment in radical urban environmentalism, the consumption habit not only wrecks the planet and enslaves many of its poorer citizens but also, like a drug addiction, is not even very satisfying or meaningful. And at least for a few farm kids I know, it is not nearly as much fun as playing on hay bales or tossing tomatoes. I wonder if in our endless purchasing, what we have actually bought is a bill of goods.