My adult life as been one long love-hate relationship with “stuff”.
I’ve spent a lifetime collecting my stuff. It clutters my house and gives diminishing returns on the pleasure I thought I’d get from it, yet I still clamor for more, half the time not knowing I’m doing it.
I’d like to invent a new word; there needs to be a word that describes the phenomenon where you leave Walmart in frustration because you realize there’s nothing new and cool there for you to buy – you have everything at the store somewhere in your house.
I am guilty in the worst way of materialism, and I don’t just mean my routine of lustily perusing the Best Buy circular every Sunday. I have subconsciously bought into the idea that there is an amount of money and stuff I can acquire that will equate to happiness. Or, if not happiness, security.
I know intellectually that neither can be had through any means on this earth, especially “stuff”. But, my heart and subconscious betray me, and I succumb to the thought that the folks on Madison Avenue pay millions to get me to think:
If I only had x, I’d be happy.
How many lives have been ruined by this one thought? Wasn’t it the emotional root of the current mortgage crisis? How many have bought houses they couldn’t afford, and then they had to fill them with fine furniture they really couldn’t afford because their mortgages were so precariously arranged? How many credit card balances are carried forward to pay for a closet full of hip, funky shoes (I’m sure the RIGHT people were impressed with those!), or the latest electronic gear – when the card holder had perfectly good existing shoes or electronics in working order?
How many marriages have been ruined because someone thought, “If I only had a new relationship with x, I’d be happy”. “If that sexy, young person were only attracted to me, I’d be happy.”
How many of us wise guys have convinced ourselves that if we just arrange our lives so that we are “secure” – that we won’t fall prey to the coming crisis like all those other suckers – that we’d be happy, especially saying “I told you so”?
Every day, God tries to remind me that the “if only x, I’d be happy” mindset is totally flawed.
In the store, my heart races as I think about buying the new item I’m looking at. I envision what I’ll do with it. I feel a type of euphoria as I’m paying for it.
I get it home, and I enjoy it for a few days. But then, the euphoria wears off. Then, I hate the item. I hate that I spent so many days working to get the money to get it(or I’ll be working may days to pay it off), and now I’m just looking for a place to store it, because it’s messing up my house.
Why can’t I ever learn the greater lesson from this? It’s happened a million times or more in my life!
Then there’s the whole economic “security” thing. I can tell you, there was a time when you could ask me if one day in the future I’d make the money I make now, have the amount I have saved, have a paid for house, investments and insurances for almost every situations, that I’d feel secure and “happy”. Let me make one thing perfectly clear: the more you have, the more you worry about what you have. Call this a character flaw in me, but it’s one I share with all humanity, whether humanity wants to admit it or not.
And the impulse isn’t even true. I’ve lived long enough to know that “security” is an illusion.
Many do not want to hear this. Even we do-gooders have convinced ourselves that if only the poor had a closer amount of money or stuff that the rich have, they’d be happy or contented, and the world would be perfect.
I am rich by no means (as I am constantly reminded every time I pick my kids up from school). But I’ve acquired enough to tell you that it’s all crap in the end.
This knowledge is not depressing – it’s liberating, believe it or not.