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I Shop, Therefore I Am – Shopping as a 7-day Fix

“But I often ask myself, when will they have a chance to relax, to appreciate beauty…life?”

I remember the Sundays of my childhood, in the 1950’s in Liverpool. Time of tranquillity, peace, of nothing to do: even football outside was forbidden, it was the ‘Lord’s Day.’  Even Church was a break from that monotony. (Homework having been done on Friday night, “before the week-end” so that it was out of the way.)

But all has changed - sport is played, and we have most of the shops open, some small ones for long hours, the large ones for up to six hours. And the government is suggesting that they be open for longer, subject to permission from the local council, who could permit shops in certain zones to stay open forever.

when I look at people in my local shopping centre, it would appear that for many of them they are defined by their purchases

Now I don’t want to go back to the boring Sundays when I was young. But I come from a line of grocers, and saw how intense the pressures on the family were from Monday til Saturday.  Wednesday was allegedly a ‘half-day’ to make up for working all day Saturday, but that was the day of meetings, of window-dressing and so on. Sunday was the only day off. Still, it stands to reason and the rules of commerce that if all the other shops on your street are open, you must stay open too. If all your mates are working Sunday then it will take a strong person to say, ‘no, I want to go to Church, I need to rest.’ Already, in this age, I see the tiredness in the 18 year olds on their Saturday and six-hour Sunday jobs; they can’t give them up - they, and their parents, need the money. If they leave a job can they find another? If the Sunday hours are extended they will be under more pressure.

It can’t be beyond the wit of politicians to make sensible rules. I think that all shops, not just big ones, should be restricted to six hours on Sunday, and also have an early end on Saturdays. This would give adequate time to get to do the things one has forgotten to do on the other days, and keep Sunday a quiet day (I have to confess that sometimes I do need to dash to the corner shop on Sundays, just before lunch.)  

This is not only about being able to go to Church on Sunday; it’s about having a rhythm of life which is human. The French philosopher Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I am.”  But when I look at people in my local shopping centre, it would appear that for many of them they are defined by their purchases; re: “I shop, therefore I am.”  This surely is not healthy, and the shoppers forget that their “the freedom to shop” whenever and wherever restricts the freedom of the shop-worker. 

In one of my own churches we have a late Mass on Sunday at 6.30 p.m. This is popular with people just finishing work, and we are glad that they come.  But I often ask myself, when will they have a chance to relax, to appreciate beauty…life?  Also, if the people who shop define their leisure by the time devoted to shopping, when too will they relax and be open to the wonders of God’s world?  Do we rule commerce, or do we let commerce rule us? – That is the question for the politicians.

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