~ A Blog About Mindfulness and Other Musings~
Join me along this journey called life as we travel ever so gently, serenely, and mindfully.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Musings on Materialism

And so it is, what a life of privilege I lead. Yummy food, fashionable clothes, roof over my head, entertainment, leisure time, great and fulfilling job… Is there really anything to complain about, or a reason to feel remotely unhappy? And yet, there are stirrings of discontent because life isn’t quite perfect. Hubby and I don’t have a house (material possession); we aren’t “settled” i.e. don’t make as much money as those our age (envy and projection); we don’t have kids (fear related to financial uncertainty and my own stuff).

In April we watched a lot of documentaries (The End of Poverty, Water on the Table) and went to see speakers (the notable David Suzuki) who discussed the disparity between the world’s have’s and have not’s and the environmental damage this inequality is wreaking.

More weighing on my conscience is the emotional and spiritual damage this type of material seeking perpetuates. As I struggle to stop making frivolous purchases, I am ashamed to admit, I simply do not have the will to pass by the window of a SALE sign and not make my way inside, particularly if it’s one of my favourite clothing stores. This may sound relatively trivial but most of us “have’s” do have that one, maybe more, vice – whether it’s the overwhelming urge to purchase the latest technological gadget or home improvement good or other big (or small) ticket item. We don’t really “need” these possessions, but boy, do they ever make us feel—and more importantly— “look” good.

We live in such a material and image-driven culture. We are conditioned to believe that these material items are essential to our happiness. We accept this without consciously even knowing that this is what we believe. Only if/when we have a moment of pause or reflection, or, when we’re hit on the head with facts (80% of the world’s resources are used by 20% of the population) that are just too difficult to ignore, do we finally see the reality of our consumptive ways. And so while we may be sobered into feeling remorse, shame, guilt, even outrage—these emotions rarely last more than a few hours or days.

And the cycle continues.

Do I have a solution? Nope. Am I going to consume less? I suppose in many ways, hubby and I do not consume very much as it is. We live in a tiny condo space that we rent, we have 1 car, take public transit as much as we can, and do not have much “stuff”, mostly because we have no where to store it! But that’s not to say in the deepest recesses of my mind, I don’t desire to have more things, or that I don’t envy those who seemingly have more. Isn’t that terrible? I feel like my hubby and I are just waiting for ourselves to “arrive” and join the ranks of all those other lucky folk who have the house, the china set, and all the fancy trimmings. We are in our 30’s after all!


These thoughts come from there, not the heart or soul.

But these futile comparisons wait and lurk, assaulting my senses every so often, as much as I intuitively know that having more is not what nourishes.

Case in point, this past weekend we were ‘brunching’ at my brother-in-law’s beautiful, spacious, four-bedroom house in an up and coming neighbourhood just outside the Toronto Area. (He and my husband are identical twins so the comparisons will be especially poignant here. And in case you’re wondering, who’s older, it’s his brother by 11 minutes, and yes, birth order plays a huge role within the family dynamic, even with twins).

Anyhow, my brother-in-law and his very gregarious wife were marvelling over a recent purchase they had made – of a vacuum cleaner, yes, a vacuum cleaner, that was originally over $700 that they paid a mere $500 for. They even brought the vacuum cleaner out to demonstrate its apparent awesomeness. I kid you not, when it was hauled into the room, I thought it looked like a gigantic Transformers toy from the 80’s, and said so, which got a few chuckles and head nods. After being dazzled by the Transformers vacuum, our attention was brought to their relatively new leather couch set, complete with built-in lazy boy features on their 3-seater and stand-alone. We got a demo of that too. When we sat down for brunch, we were further wowed with home-made waffles from an actual waffle-maker (not that expensive we were told, only $100). Do ordinary people actually own restaurant-style waffle-makers? Where do they store them? At our place, we hardly have enough cupboard space for our every-day dishes!

Getting back to the brunch table, which was overflowing with goodies, we were offered a beautiful white wine that they had bottled themselves, originally a $200+ cost for a couple dozen bottles, that they had paid half price for courtesy of a promotional sale. Again, we were marvelled and dazzled at all the luxury.

Oh, did I mention that just the night before, they had booked a fabulous trip to Portugal and Spain for two weeks in June?

It just doesn’t get any better than this, does it?

I just hope, somewhere in their hearts, they say a sincere prayer of gratitude every night for truly being blessed with abundance.
Because if they don’t, then the mild envy I already feel is more bitter than bittersweet.

I mean, let’s face it – we don’t choose which part of the world we’re born in, anymore than we choose the economic status of our families. So, in many ways, our good fortunes from an economic sense (even despite higher education and our own hard work) are just a random phenomenon of placement at birth. We, the have’s, are not entitled to the possessions we own — we are simply blessed, or at best, damn lucky.

This thought humbles me. It provides me with perspective. It makes me view my existing good fortune, with or without the house and its trimmings through the lens of gratitude and appreciation.

My heart is full. I am blessed.

And I strive to nourish myself in the only way that matters.

From within.

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