Yesterday I noticed something that really grabbed my attention - a discarded Christmas tree tossed to the side of the street waiting to be picked up with the rest of the week's trash. I probably wouldn't have paid any attention to it at all if not for the fact that it's only a few days after Christmas. December isn't even over, and yet there was that tree sitting alongside a big trash container loaded up with the boxes and discarded wrapping paper of a Christmas now past.
As I stared at that tree on the side of the road I wondered how much preparation may have gone into buying and decorating that discarded tree. I thought about all the hectic preparation that went into getting ready for the big day, fighting crowds at the mall, wrapping all the gifts, then Christmas comes, the gifts get opened, and then the next day it's time to throw it all away and move on to the next big event- maybe Valentines Day?
My guess is that most people who have put up a Christmas tree haven't put it out with trash quite yet; however, I also believe that the image of that discarded tree and a trash bin full of used wrapping paper is a fairly expressive icon of life in today's 21st century throwaway culture.
We go to a fast food restaurant, eat some food, have a drink and then throw out the plastic forks and napkins and cups- piles of trash filled with items that have been "discarded after use."
But this throwaway culture mentality isn't just confined to fast food restaurants. People go out and buy new clothes or new shoes, even new cars or they land a new job, and then quickly get bored or disappointed with it all, so it's on to even bigger and better and newer.
The norms of a throwaway culture are sometimes even applied to the way people treat other people. They accumulate business contacts, acquaintances, even friends who are useful to them and then throw them away when and if they no longer seem to be of any value to them.
As I think about that discarded tree on the side of the road, I become more and more convinced that the popular path of a throwaway culture is a narcissistic journey that leads to ultimate suffering, and I commit myself once more to walk a spiritual path that leads in the opposite direction.
These days after Christmas are a great gift for me, a time to intentionally become more and more mindful in the moment, and grateful for all that "is." The focus of my energy is not on a Christmas that is over and done; and I am not "getting ready" for anything yet to come. I am just happy to be here and now, surrounded by people I love, embracing the revelations of this new day.