The relationship between the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US and what is known as Black Friday symbolizes an edge played out in our national psyche, a war between gratitude and gluttony.
Gratitude comes when we recognize our blessings and that what we have is “enough” or “more than enough.” Gluttony is being hooked on More.
Gluttony is represented in Buddhist thought by the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts. There are different renditions of the hungry ghosts, but the common theme is one of beings with an enormous belly and a tiny mouth. Beings caught in this realm cannot take in enough to satiate their desires, and thus are caught in the pain of unfulfilled craving.
Looking around, I wonder if we’re not now living in the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts. For our economy to not topple over, we seem to depend on “growth,” (always producing and consuming more). Yet as a new movie asks, what if we let go of the absurd idea of endless growth? “What if the goal of our economy wasn’t more, but better—better health, better jobs and a better chance to survive on the planet?”
Two scientists at the U.N. climate change summit have called for radical and immediate de-growth strategies in the United States, EU, and other wealthy nations. They see it as the only hope for averting runaway global warming.
Our attachment to More is killing us.
Here on the home front, one of our most sacred holidays (Thanksgiving) is, in my eyes, being challenged by playing to the hungry ghosts. A number of big chain stores are opening even earlier this year. The message is Stop saying thanks and get shopping! We can’t have you rest in the state of Enough. You must want More!
As I ate my Thanksgiving meal (a true banquet) today, I felt good that I stopped at just the right amount. That was very pleasurable; my body felt great. So many years, like most Thanksgiving celebrants, I have eaten too much and end up with a belly ache. This is the lesson we are studying on the collective level.
Can we find Enough, or will we be caught in the insatiable craving for More?