I have grown up in the wealthiest, most consumeristic country in the world. I have been taught to measure economic growth purely in numbers: number of jobs created, the unemployment rate, GDP, imports and exports.
I have been through 29 years of indoctrination. My teachers are men and women paid six figure salaries to create marketing strategies and advertisements directed at my exact social stratum, pounding into my head again and again that I am a consumer, and that in order to have significance, meaning and attractiveness in this world I must consume. Resources must be used. Happiness is only meant to be temporary, so keep buying, baby, because you need another cheap thrill. Oh, but make sure you shop with reusable bags and recycle the plastic packaging. Otherwise your conscience might get the best of you.
When I am told to consider the generations after me, it is only in relation to Social Security and government dependance. “There’s no use trying to stop the Monster now. Besides, he provides for us like a rich, drunken father. Perhaps if we keep him inebriated on the blood of our children he won’t bother us.” Our tip-of-the-hat to the next generation has nothing to do with truth, justice, or sustainability. No thought or word is given to the possibility of the earth being so raped of her resources that Social Security will be the furthest thing from security that money can buy.
Some people work as hard as they possibly can to survive, making our clothing for the next micro-trend, living day to day with barely enough money to feed their families. They come home and sit on a mostly dry dirt floor, with walls and a roof made from the garbage heap down the street.
Some of us can sit on our lazy tush all day and “get paid” by social services, order out pizza and eat on Styrofoam plates and drink Miller High Life out of red, plastic cups while watching “Hoarders,” then go shopping with the leftovers from the same check, accumulating endless trinkets and distractions for ourselves and our children, filling our home with the endless noise of television and battery operated toys.
But who am I to talk? Am I really that much different?
“I want to live more simply.” I go to clean out the closet. Where to start? Open the doors. Take everything out and put it on the bed. “Oh, what’s this? One of my drawings from third grade. Oh, perhaps I should make a binder for these. I guess I’ll punch some holes in it. Where’s that extra binder again?” I go up in the attic and shift around some boxes that were never unpacked from the previous three moves. I find my childhood collection of baseball cards. “I wonder how much these are worth?” I go downstairs to the computer and search the internet for ‘baseball card values.’ Pennies. Back to the closet. “Oh Rache, look! My rare coin collection. How many state quarters did I end up collecting? Looks like I only got up to Nebraska. Better see if I have any more in the vase out by the front door.”
In the land of the free, I have made myself a slave.
It takes serious resolve and a swimming upstream to be free from the curse of accumulation. To break from the gravitational pull of our endless mountains of stuff. “And some [seed] fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it.”
How much fruit would be born in our lives if we did some occasional weeding? How many gifts are being squandered and buried under heaps of distractions? How much love and affection is being given to lifeless possessions rather than the lives in front of us? How much energy is being wasted on endless maintenance of all our modern conveniences?
It is interesting that right after Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,” he says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
I’ve always seen this saying as a non-sequitur. Why is he talking about light and darkness and the eye in between two sayings about money? (He follows it with, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”)
Perhaps when my life is consumed with money and possessions, my eye cannot focus on one thing. It flits, from one distraction to the next. Like a squirrel nervously protecting its many stashes. My eye, like my mind, cannot focus, constantly giving its attention to distractions. My mind falls into the schizophrenic habit of only being able to focus for seconds at a time.
And in so doing, my eye, like my mind, becomes unhealthy, as though a cloud of darkness constantly hovers over my eyes, and I am stuck in an endless rainstorm. My feet buried too deep in the mud of my possessions to move. Oh, how great is this darkness!
Demons don’t need to possess me. I am possessed by my possessions.