Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.

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Fall shoes. Fall shopping. We arrived at Vintage Fair Mall at 10 a.m. in order to avoid burning up in the parking lot and enjoy a less crowded air-conditioned experience. There were deals to be had: 30% off this, 40% off that, half off a pizza at BJ’s. The deals make me think of what’s coming for the rest of the year.

Often, I have thought that when we loosen up on religious and civic sentiment, the lack of external, transcendent commitments in our lives leaves a gap. The space left is in a vacuum, meaning something must fill it. It cannot remain empty.

This country championed a free market, usually interfering to provide incentives for desired outcomes and when the company ran the risk of causing harm. Other than blatant lies, there is little restriction on advertising. You can find it everywhere, on your phone, computer, street side billboards, buses, even children’s clothing bears the mark of the brand name.

It may be Back to School at Target, but autumn in full swing at Hobby Lobby and in the catalogs of Pottery Barn and Ikea. We will soon experience the store-side push to buy decorations and entertaining supplies for Halloween, table décor for Thanksgiving (a less marketable holiday) and Christmas or Hanukah. Thanksgiving poses some challenges to the retail industry. When we practice gratitude, we are more likely to feel satisfied with what we have and less inclined to spend. You will note the presence of Christmas decorations immediately following Halloween.

John Watson, a prominent psychologist, pioneered modern advertising by finding consumers were more likely to purchase a product when the seller appealed to their emotions, rather than rational thinking. He told advertisers, “tell him something that will tie him up with fear, something that will stir up a mild rage, that will call out an affectionate or love response, or strike at a deep psychological or habit need.”

On one hand, I think it can be terribly fun to be caught up in the spirit of the season, decorating my mantle with pumpkins and crows at Halloween, baskets, and candlesticks at Thanksgiving. Then comes the moment to decorate for Christmas. Moved by those Pottery Barn catalogs and Pinterest searches, I would love to set upon my mantle a sea of candles with mercury glass holders and wool pom pom garlands, but for us, I think it is best to set a Nativity scene.

As we head into fall and the frenzy surrounding holiday shopping, I want to encourage you to ask yourself how modern marketing influences you. Does it give you a feeling of nostalgia, to create a little hygge in your home with a few more throws, or does it lead you to jealousy (a type of fear), that some have it but maybe you do not (whatever it is)? Does it incline you to hold on to tradition and family heirlooms, or tempts you to want to toss out the old that you once thought perfectly acceptable, and replace it with a whole set of the new? Do the upcoming festivities and sentiment make you more inclined to open your home or less?

I am not against capitalism, marketing or Black Friday shopping. When it was clear son would be born on Black Friday, I did my online shopping before leaving for the hospital. What I am against, and I caution you against, it going about the season mindlessly, allowing stress or product placement to guide you. It can be fun, even therapeutic at times, but in its march into your life and home, where will the marketing stop, and where do your values start? They will not always conflict. But sometimes, perhaps often, the marketing must stop at the door, and the values take precedent.

That season has not yet started. It is only gearing up. Let us be ready for it this year so we can celebrate the way our hearts to desire, growing each year to become a better person, purifying our desires and lessening our disappointments.