When I was a child, a neighbor who was a devout Christian came over to our house and sat distraught, talking to my mother. She had just returned from the grocery store and found it filled with chocolate bunnies and cream eggs for Easter. She said to my mother, “we, as Christians, have already lost Christmas to commercialism, if we lose Easter too, our religion is in serious trouble.”
What my neighbor was decrying was the substitution of commercialism for content- of surface for substance. When advertisers come in to our lives and try and sell back to us our own experiences, they diminish them. Without question Easter eggs and chocolates are part of many families’ memories of the holiday. But they are not, and never have been, the sum total. The holiday has deep religious significance. Not everyone has religious connections to the holiday, but for them, Easter may also be about time with family and perhaps, the joy of Spring- things similarly not captured by commercials.
The problem is that when advertisers enter the dialogue, they are seeking to place their products at the center of our experience. Sadly, in our world of constant media bombardment, it is easy to lose what is authentic in our own lives. It is easy to let the televised version of events take the place of our own memories- swapping symbolism and commercialism for real connection.
Whether advertisers are painting a picture of the holidays, or love, or fun, or happiness, their aim is always the same- to make us buy things. Their goal is to turn our desire for authentic connection into purchasing. They want to sell us the facsimile and we are all too often willing to buy. But of course, one cannot really buy love or happiness and true religious experiences cannot be purchased at a store.
Our culture is all about convincing us that we do not have enough and that the next purchase will somehow make us whole. We are told that “retail therapy” is the way to cure our ills- when really such therapy results in greater credit card debt, more clutter in our homes and the feeling of emptiness that follows the realization that this purchase has not actually changed our situations in any meaningful way.
For, like the chocolate bunnies and creams eggs, the purchases are devoid of nutritional value. They offer us nothing that can nurture our souls and our lives. This year, resist the Easter Bunny and instead embrace what is real and meaningful in your lives. Find your spiritual center, embrace a loved one, take a walk in nature. Celebrate what is authentic and true in your lives and you will find it is a better therapy than what advertisers would have you purchase.