Nov 162010
Authors: Johnathon Kastner

Next week we’ll all be celebrating Thanksgiving by visiting with our families and being reminded what really matters in life. Traditional holiday propaganda would have you believe that what matters most is friends and family, but let’s be honest here, those things are easy to take for granted for a reason.

No, what really matters this holiday season is the wonderful world of the material. From the table laden with a hundred bucks in food, to the shopping sprees that allow you to save hundreds by spending thousands, the holiday of Thanksgiving and Black Friday is a monument to the shameless excess that makes us great.

I can hear the feeble protests of the family-hugging hippies out there now. “But Johnathan,” they cry, the vague smell of holiday nutmeg and unwashed sweat surrounding them, “People are wonderful and precious, and we should share our love.” Nonsense, I say. You’ve seen people in traffic. People are terrible drivers and hence terrible people. Your family members are someone’s road-rage inspiring idiot and deserve no additional sympathy.

No, this holiday is about enjoying life in its two most important forms: eating and buying.
Let us take, for example, the humble turkey. It spends the majority of the year growing fatter and more appetizing, frolicking about without any knowledge of its place in the scheme of our plans. Finally, for the vaguest of symbolic urgings, we slaughter millions of them, eat maybe a quarter of what we kill, save maybe another quarter as leftovers, and throw out the rest.

Should you be thankful you’re lucky enough to have meat? Should you honor the sacrifice of an animal who died for your meal? Should you at least put some leftovers in Tupperware in a vague nod toward global scarcity? No! The lesson of the turkey is that everything, even life itself, exists solely to fill out the pleasures of the moment.

Beside, turkeys are stupid, and everyone has meat. Slowly, as you digest bird and try to develop the energy to stand, you’ll realize you may have meat, but you don’t have the latest digital craze. This is the second great lesson of the holiday: even gorging oneself until bursting is not enough to make you happy.

No, in order to truly be happy we must be comparatively happy. This is more complex than simply owning what you want to own and using it contentedly; that is cowardice. Comparative happiness is realizing that not only is your cell phone awesome, but that it has a full gig more memory than any cell phone owned by any of your friends (who are competing to be the most comparatively happy).

Hence Black Friday. The burning fire that turns the great commerce engine of Christmas, Black Friday is an excellent time to win at happiness and at Christmas at the same time. Keep in mind it can be dangerous out there, as crowds of people scrabble atop each other like a nest of ants. Take a self-defense class now, so they won’t obstruct you from your goal.

Having acquired food and bargains, you can finally sit back and enjoy the happiness you have earned. Better yet, try to increase it further by seeing who won at shopping. Go spend some time with your family sharing bargain-victory stories until you are the undisputed king of Turkey-day.

If you came out on the losing end, there may still be hope. Those who had the most food heedless of the consequence can be nudged in a few months with jests about weight gain, and those who spent the most money can still be taunted later when they can’t afford to enjoy future sales.

Keep your eyes on the prize, and don’t fall for tricks about happiness being within. Happiness doesn’t have to be a contest –– it can be an assured victory. After all, happiness and holidays can be whatever you make of it.

Johnathan Kastner is in his second year of his second bachelor’s degree, majoring in computer science. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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