Don’t buy your loved ones any physical objects in the next six weeks. If you have regular access to the technology and leisure which reading this requires, you almost certainly have enough stuff to do a great many fun things in the year to come. So give those you care about the means and inspiration to do them, and do them better.
Gear helps you do your activities of choice, but most of the crap we purchase is not of the new sort, it is of the better-than sort. Better than the quite similar thing we already have, and even the best gear upgrades don’t make us all that much better. I’m not talking about buying shoes which finally fit; I’m talking about a lighter down jacket or pack, fancier skis or bike, more precise rifle. In almost every case the amount of betterness is well down in the single percentiles. The primary purposes of most gear purchases is rather to nurse along our engagement until we’re once again in the field.
This is all well and good, and I’m not proposing any oath about not buying stuff in 2014. Theoretical engagement, planning, and learning processes which go with them are valuable. And you should take moderation in moderation, too. What I am saying is that the American national disease has become chasing happiness without ever being happy. It is remarkably effective to realize that happiness is a dynamic state not at all free of intrapersonal conflict, and that one of the best ways of being happy is to decide that you are. Now. I enjoy my frequent, mid-afternoon walks from office to coffeeshop and back as much for the walking as for the coffee. I can pause before going back down the hill and, on a clear day like today, see three different mountain ranges coming together in the valley where the Flathead River is birthed. The drive thru of said coffeeshop will, for the first time ever, be open 24 hours next Friday. I assume that part of the allure of this ritual has do with breaking the routine, in the company of friends and family and in a slightly uncomfortable manner. What freedom to be able to do this without the crutch of impulse purchases, trampling others, and the secondary and tertiary global impacts of these activities. Which ought to trouble us all.
So over the next week I’ll put forth several ideas, big and small, as my interest and spite dictate, for gifts which are too good to be put in a box. Because you and yours deserve only as much. No new coats. No new wheels. No fucking cuben fiber. Not even new socks, the most pragmatic of presents. Just inspiration. Regardless of where you live the possibilities will exceed your lifespan. Yes, even in California. All you need more of are eyes to see them.