As this furry muse sits on my lap, purring away, sending me messages through his velvety soft being, I ponder the idea of how much stuff we truly need in this world to make us happy.
This isn’t just any ol’ cat I’m talking about; it is simply a very special cat I’m taking care of, who offers peace, a “being in the moment” kind of attitude, and an inadvertent guidance on what is important. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have this lovely creature in my presence for a few days, as I enjoy taking care of others’ animals while the guardians are out playing, traveling, and feeling carefree.
Somehow, this benefits my writing and my lifestyle.
I don’t need much—I used to though. I used to need and crave the luxurious accoutrement lifestyle of the rich and famous. I never had it, but as my grandmother would say “You have champagne taste on a beer budget”!
Truer words were never spoken.
Over the years, I had a love/hate relationship with materialism. Depending on where I lived, it mattered what I had. Even though it boosted my self-esteem in some dysfunctional way, it always gave me a reason to want and acquire more. The major drawback to this way of living, as I saw it, was it never defined who I was, and my pocketbook took a hit more than I care to express.
Does it matter to keep up with what other people have in their garage or closets? Have we become a society of extreme materialistic endeavors, as a means to secure more wealth? Do we really care what the latest style is, in every sense of the word?
I can break this down into thoughts and pieces on the economic impact of our purchasing power, yet I have zero education (well, I did take an economics class in college and marginally passed) on how the money world turns to keep everyone thriving and afloat. My angle is from a simplistic nature; a woman (me) who used to put a lot of stock into material items, only to realize it wasn’t in the best interest of the planet or her character. I’m talking about scaling back.
This holiday season is a prime example of “purchasing gone mad”! Decorations start to go up in late summer, enticing the parents and children of what is possible in the technology/gaming world, the cutest and trendiest clothes, the shiniest toys, and what everyone else seems to be buying and doing. It kind of makes me a bit sick to my stomach, as I’ve been there and it never quite felt good.
Yes, I always was surprised and excited about the new bauble around my neck, or that kitchen accessory that seemed to match something I already had, or a down-jacket that cost more than a weeks’ worth of groceries, but what got my goat was the idea behind the materialistic satisfaction that came along with every gift or purchase. Did I need it? Would it make me happier? Would my friends love me more?
Our economy gets a big old boost every holiday season. Parents swear up and down each year that “only one major gift this year and that’s it”. But, their good intentions go awry when the child returns home after school break only to beg their parents for more and more because “I want it”. It’s a conundrum, of sorts, and not all families fall into this way of being. Those who do, drive the materialistic economic spin. Those who don’t might have to deal with a very sad and resentful child.
As it turns out, whatever that child wanted at the time will become history collecting dust in the corner of their bedroom come February. The luster is gone, the wad of cash was unfortunately spent, the economy got a spike, and it’s on to the next toy. It is such a vicious cycle every holiday year, and it usually begins right after Halloween.
Shopping and more shopping brings down the environmentalists, no doubt. What if we were to spend all that hard-earned cash on doing good for others in a way that doesn’t involve presents and unnecessary gifts? The positive feelings of offering up your time and energy to worthy causes, donating unused items and clothes from your closets, feeding the homeless with cans of food that have been sitting in your pantry for years, walking a few dogs who are without true homes and freedom, traveling the world on a budget; these are excellent ways to shore up your own personal assets, the biggest one being your heart, and it doesn’t cost a dime.
The economy will continue to spin and churn, and be driven by the over-the-top wealthy people who want to flaunt their purchases knowing it makes them feel more privileged and better. I think we need this balance in the world, I’m happy to say. Any great harmonious situation involves a coming together of such diverse backgrounds, including this type of shopping behavior.
However, the gap between the very rich and the very poor is too great. The middle class is barely surviving in the spaces they currently live in, and we seem to be teetering on one recession or another. If it is our affinity of living beyond our means, then it’s time to reel it in a bit.
Shopping all day for items that might fill an inner void would be better spent with a walk in nature. That’s where the real gems lie. Mother Earth provides more eye-candy material than any big box chain store can offer.
We are now rolling into the holidays with a desire for material goods and holiday cheer. This alone is prevalent in the decorations going up outside of homes, as we speak. The flipside of this type of money spending is taking time with loved ones, laughing, hugging, sharing, and offering compassion. The economy might receive a welcomed happiness surge, and some frowns and hoarders could even smile.
Wouldn’t that be a blessing?
Put away your wallets for a day, get outside and receive nourishment from the earth and oceans, walk to destinations and save on gas, call a friend and meet for tea.
The holidays will still arrive, the kids will continue to play with their old toys, and I have no doubt the economy will be just fine.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise