An Inmaterial Proposition
Materialism, or rather the lack thereof, is a phrase of subjective definition and interpretation. It is typically and mistakenly used, at least in present times, to provide a lofty description of one’s own level of enlightenment, to proclaim a highly evolved spirituality surpassing those who purchase and accumulate anything but the barest of bare necessities.
Unless you are old-order Amish or happen to live in a Buddhist temple in the furthest reaches of Nepal, the utterance is a bit laughable. Some who claim to eschew materialism may actually believe their own blarney.
Whenever I hear people articulate phrases such as “We have decided that material things are not important and have learned to live simply,” I am forced to refrain from stifling a laugh. This is because pronouncements of hard-won bodhi obtained via the sacrifice of not purchasing a third Mercedes or a fifth fl at screen are absurd. It is impolitic not to contain one’s amusement when encountering absurdity, and the trend toward boasting of an ascetic and Spartan lifestyle is about as absurd as they come.
But I’ve been hearing these comments more frequently.
Do not misunderstand; I have absolutely zero problems with materialism. It sometimes makes people happy. It’s sometimes a reward to one’s self. It’s even good for the economy.
I’ve known a few people who lived a relatively and comparatively simple life, but I’m betting most of us would be more materialistic than we are if we had the time or the funds. Heck, I’d love a custom-made Pogreba guitar or a full set of Delta Frost harmonicas. I wouldn’t mind a car that was less than a decade old.
Nope. I could never claim to live a life free of materialism when I’ve got a satellite dish and high speed Internet. Oh … and let’s not forget the massage chair. Monks, true hermits and navel-gazing anchorites just don’t have that sort of stuff. I don’t think they even have microwaves. I’ll bet they don’t blow all their excess cash on rawhide chew bones for their dogs.
Excess materialism is a bit obnoxious but it’s not really a thorn in my side. I figure some folks are like the little lizard who boasted of having brontosaurus ancestry on his mother’s side. If such illusions give a body pleasure, make them feel better for a minute or two--it’s no skin off my back.
When I become a trifle nauseated is when a person of caviar tastes and lifestyle takes on the affectation of being homespun and introspective, plain as an old dishrag while sleeping on 1,400 thread-count sheets. It’s even more grating when they employ this rationale to avoid doing something good, something right, like supporting an elderly parent in need, when they make harebrained excuses because they can’t be bothered to turn a tap.
Which is the whole point of this ramble.
It’s been a crazy couple of years; the times we live in are taking weirdness to an entirely new plateau. Whenever I’ve flipped on the tube, listened to the radio or fallen into the abyss of the internet, I hear and see all sorts of people talking about how we should all make sacrifices, how we should do good, how we should be kind, considerate, understanding, and less concerned with material aspirations.
This is not bad advice, but the message might have a bit more impact if these folks didn’t finish their little morality talks by jumping into limos, hopping on private jets, or sending a paid lackey off to Whole Foods to pick up some chemical-free milk, eggs from holistic chickens, and a $700 truffle.
Honestly … is the world becoming more narcissistic, or am I just becoming more surly?
When spring arrived, I had redbuds on the bloom and happy dogs, and the snakes weren’t out yet. As is true with every Ozark spring, the new season brought a glimmer of hope that maybe the word will get a trifle less addled. I saw good things and nice folks, an easy task when you’ve got neighbors like I do and live in the far boonies. I saw people who walk the walk, who go out of their way for others in manners both big and small.
When I step out the door into my woods, the crisp air suggests a smidgen of possibility that maybe, just maybe, things will get better.
I may be simple-minded to think that. If so, simplicity might not be such a bad thing.