The Ghost of Values Past

Christmas speaks to us for all the right reasons.  It is a time of goodwill, charity, and kindness.  Even the grumpiest among us find a reason to smile in anticipation of the wonderful mayhem of Christmas morning.

My grandmother remembers when getting an orange for Christmas was special.  Now we give and get things she could not have dreamed of.  Grandma’s orange and your new iPhone are the same–a symbol of what humans can accomplish when they are free.

Prosperity is a wonderful thing, but we lose our perspective quickly.  One hundred years before Grandma was born, Christmas for many was an extra few pieces of coal.  One hundred before that, it was the slight hope that half of one’s children would survive. We know why we want progress when our children wither away for lack of medicine.  Do we know now?

I doubt it.  An old saying instructs us that a county can survive anything but prosperity.  I feel that way about our country today.  We are a mishmash of triviality, living our lives vicariously through the sad and deplorable depictions we see on TV.  The satisfaction and joy we crave is all around us, but we miss it, always pushing it aside to see what celebrities are saying and doing.  It is an endless parade of the pathetic winding through our lives like a snake.

Is our sad and often shallow existence due to the things we have now?  Is it the phone, the computer, the singing bass on our bathroom wall?  Nonsense.  Cable TV can uplift as much as it degrades.  Computers can entertain us with games or give us the power to cure diseases.  What we have lost is the spirit that produces these wonders.

From bleak prospects for surviving to adulthood to the bounty we will share tomorrow, one value has lifted us–the will to live better, the joy of a productive life.  That will is founded on honoring the human animal–what we are, what we can achieve.  We are now more like jackals tearing anxiously at a single carcass.  The news bludgeons us constantly with tales of greed and corruption, forgetting the millions who work honestly to produce.  We shed tears for those without and strip flesh from those who do.

We are men and women, not carrion-eaters.  We are able to master nature and master ourselves. Let us remember tomorrow that spark within that separates us from the trivial, from the pathetic, from the temptation to beg, whether for ourselves or in the name of others.  Let us become again the noble creatures who stood atop their highest value–self respect–and claimed for us the freedom to enjoy a life so lush and comfortable.  While the kids and the grandkids are unwrapping what you have given them, take time to remember the values that made that generosity possible–free minds in a free country.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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1 Response to The Ghost of Values Past

  1. Rae Ann McNeilly says:

    You brought tears to my eyes this morning, but then I am among the pathetic, when it comes to valuing freedom that is! Thank you for giving us a real message on Christmas Eve rather than the standard issue, sugar coated, schmaltz that seems to be required at this time of year. Merry Christmas and thanks for my daily moment of sanity found in your blog.


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