Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter and the Free Market

I grew up Methodist (United Methodist, actually), went through a long Between Churches spell, and eventually settled back into a sort of relationship with the local Episcopalian church. My religious faith has stayed fairly steady (though, as a good born New Englander, I am not going to talk to you about it), but if the Christian Church were on Facebook, I would mark our relationship "it's complicated."

But I still love Easter. I have always loved Easter far more than Christmas, and the years have only strengthened those feelings.

It is the tritest of cliches to point out that Christmas is overly commercialized, but that commercialization is instructive, because in it we can see the Invisible Hand of the Free Market on a crazed, drunken rampage. In the three months of the season, there is absolutely nothing that can happen in stores, malls, back alleys or any other temple of commerce that could shock or surprise me.

This is the untethered free market in action, the rudderless, anchor-deficient free market that has long since stopped asking "What is the real point and purpose of this activity" and instead asks "How can this activity be leveraged to create a revenue stream?" With most free marketified activities, we can at least take comfort in the notion that injection of free market profit-driven innovation will bring us to a higher better pursuit of our main goal.

But Christmas can't even try to pretend that the proliferation of holiday tchotchkes and corporate advertising somehow aids in the worship and honoring of the Great I Am. The Creator of All That Is and Will Be is not honored by special beer steins. No, the vast majority seasonal tie-ins have lost the plot, descending into some sad Godless money-grubbing romp.

Easter, however, stays relatively impervious to the seduction of the Invisible Hand. Perhaps it's that Christmas reduces to simple charming ideas-- babies are sweet and people should be nice to others-- but Easter is harsh and dark an then, for many folks, metaphysically improbable.

It may be a matter of how easy it is to keep up appearances. In other words, I can sell you Christmas stuff and still pretend that it has something to do with the central message of Christmas. But the crucifixion does not play well on t-shirts and halftime advertising.

A unmoored free market doesn't just subvert the virtue and purpose of an activity-- it twists and distorts everything into a fun-house shadow if its true self. Folks who have a childlike faith in the free market and believe that an unleashed market will automatically breathe virtue into whatever it comes near-- those folks need only look at Christmas, a holiday that has literally had the virtue beaten out of it by the club-wielding invisible hand.

Compare and contrast with Easter. Easter is not broadly celebrated; it is not culturally required for every single person of whatever faith to observe it, and so there was no need to water it down for mass marketing. Nor has it bee infused with the Great Money Chase, and so other aspects can stay in place.

Easter is about renewal, rebirth, and resurrection; it's about finding a path forward in even the darkest of moments. It's about finding direction and guidance from a higher power. It's about somehow seeing beyond the limited boundaries of our lives into something so infinite and beautiful that we can barely grasp it.

It does not cry out to be fixed. It does not need corporate interests to come in and say, "This holiday is a national disgrace, a sad failure. We must not let people condemned to this lame holiday because their prospects are controlled by their calendar." Easter does not need somebody to come up with National Holiday Standards so that it can be measured against them (to prove it's failing). Easter does not need a shot of Holiday Reform. There may indeed be great potential depths of untapped riches in the holiday, but there is no value to the holiday in trying to tap those riches.

There are some things the Free Market should just leave alone, because the Free Market too easily loses track of the Actual Point of the things it tries to "fix."

I had a good Easter morning. I get up and go out to eat with all my family in the area, and I play a brass instrument in church. This year as a bonus my grandson was baptised. I can't think of anything that would lead me to think, "If only corporate interests could get their hands on this and turn it into the same great holiday that they made Christmas."

1 comment:

  1. Mr.Greene,
    I need your education stuff for professional information.
    I love your personal stuff for personal inspiration.
    Much obliged,
    Jerry Masters