This weekend I will be turning 66 years old. When I was young that sounded pretty old, but as any of us who have arrived here (or beyond), our age has little to do with how we think and feel at a particular number. I am actually quite happy to be 66 for all sorts of reasons and while I can’t do some of the things I did at younger ages (nor do I want to!) , my awareness, my sense of self and the world, my internal and external resources are far, far better than then. Plus when checked it out, I realized that SMART Living 365.com will be turning 10 years old in a week or two. So it is a time of birthdays for both of us and what better way to celebrate than to throw my version of a potlach! Are there gifts? Of course—what kind of potlach would it be without them?
In case you are unfamiliar with the term, the potlach is a ceremony that originated with the native peoples of the Pacific Coast of British Columbia, Canada and into the U.S. Of particular note is the tribe of Kwakwaka’wakw Indians. The Kwakwaka’wakw are famous for their feasts and gift-giving ceremonies called a potlach. While they are often blamed for being the originators of the idea of “conspicuous consumption,” to me they just signaled a strong willingness to throw a big party to celebrate something important. I see the root of it as the idea that when one has a lot to give, then gifting some of it to those around them is a generous thing to do.
When you think about it, the idea of gifting other people when you have something to celebrate forces us to turn some of our thinking around in our overly consuming culture. And with the help of an article about potlaches in the New York Times, I came up with five reasons why I think a potlach is the perfect way to celebrate both SMART Living’s birthday as well as my own.
#1 Simplify and economize. The chiefs of the Kwakwaka’wakw tribes often had over 1,000 people coming to their potlaches. They learned that it was often best just to provide something simple and hopefully meaningful to their guests rather than attempting to handpick something special for each of them. While more notable guests did receive more extravagant gifts, the vast majority received blankets and other useful household items. No, I’m not planning on giving you a blanket, but I will keep it simple and economically viable.
#2 Avoid comparison. As with all gift-giving it might be tempting to try to out-do others. But let’s remember that it isn’t a contest. As with all giving, it is probably best to do it from a place of generosity, not one-upmanship. Plus, one should never give beyond their means.
#3 Share the wealth. Interestingly enough, the Canadian government outlawed potlaches for nearly 75 years because they saw them as “anti-Christian, reckless and wasteful.” I told you the tribal leaders knew how to throw a party didn’t I? But instead, it is largely believed that the potlach signified the wealth and generosity of the leaders throwing the celebration. They are also intended to “create alliances, promote altruism, redistribute wealth, ensure basic needs for all members as well as a little opportunity to “show off.”
#4 Put the focus on giving rather than getting. When was the last time you went to a birthday party for a child? In the vast majority of families it often appears as though the child is being raised to measure their worth by the number and extravagance of the gifts they receive. I’d like to believe it is different as they/we age, but is it? I can’t help but believe that if we all spend our lives expecting, evaluating and comparing the gifts we receive, we not only undervalue the process but train ourselves to expect more. Plus such practices are materially based and extremely external. What would be different in our lives if we switched it around to giving rather than getting?
#5 Whatever you do, don’t forget to celebrate the milestones in your life. I’ve read several articles lately that point out how our culture seems intent on eliminating rituals for all sorts of reasons. Yet I think we need them for our mental and spiritual good health. As meaning-making creatures we need frameworks that help us to mark time, identify important relationships and make sense of the constant changes that life offers. It doesn’t really matter what ritual you use to distinguish important dates, people and times passages—what matters is that we take the time to pause, reflect and acknowledge what matters most to us.
So what exactly do I believe is a worthy potlach gift that I can offer you? In honor of both my birthday and that of SMART Living I want to offer all of you a free kindle copy of any one of my four SMART Living 365 books. Just go to Amazon and download one or all four of them if you like. And remember, if you don’t own a kindle you can download a kindle app (also free) onto your computer and read them that way.
- Simple * SMART & Happy – A SMART Living 365 Guide to a Sustainable & Meaningful Lifestyle
- RightSizing – A SMART Living 365 Guide to Reinventing Retirement
- Positive Aging – A SMART Living 365 Guide to Thriving and Wellbeing At Any Age
- You Get To Make It Up – A SMART Living 365 Guide to Creating a Happy & Meaningful Life
What’s in it for me? If any of these books offer just one or two ideas that help another—my mission is accomplished. Oh and naturally I would love an honest review on Amazon once you finish reading any one of them. But when I remember the reason that I wrote them in the first place, it was always to share ideas with others about how to create a more meaningful, happy and peaceful life. So the more people who read them all the better. That’s why I would be honored if you share this post and/or the links to any friends you know who might also appreciate the offer. Just keep in mind that the books will only be available today 5/21/21, 5/22/21 and 5/23/21 so be sure and get them before the offer expires.
I am deeply grateful for all the good that has come into my life from embracing this journey of SMART Living. And I am also extremely grateful to all of you who read and appreciate my words both here on the blog and in my books. It makes me happy to offer this simple gift to any and all of you as I mark the significance of SMART Living 365’s birthday as well as my own. And it might be SMART for all of us to remember to commemorate the milestones in our lives in any way that reminds us of all that we have to celebrate.