On Minnesota Public Radio I heard a speaker lament that his life will not be better than those of his parents, it will be worse. A speaker with an Asian accent after him spoke wisdom in the face of that fear. He said essentially, “So what if I drive a smaller car, live in a smaller house, and consume less stuff? It’s not so bad.”
I think it’s better. This financial crisis may save the planet from destruction by our culture of consumerism, which is quickly spreading to the rest of the globe. Now that people are holding off on purchases, maybe they can take a breath and identify the important values in life. I feel for those who live frugally and still lack the basics, but many Americans have been living beyond their means.
Columnist George Will cited “a blizzard of credit cards” for separating “the pleasure of purchasing from the pain of paying.” A letter in our local paper says it’s time,
for Americans to conduct ourselves in a manner becoming a leading nation—by moderating our gluttony and treating our natural resources as valuable and finite. Our overbuilding, overeating, and overextending behavior isn’t a result of anything we didn’t see coming, but a predictable result of wasteful and lazy behavior.This harsh judgment has much truth. Finally, consumerism seems to be getting its long-needed correction. Unfortunately, innocent people may be hurt the most.
My parents were married a few weeks before the stock market crash of 1929, and my mother conditioned us to be frugal. I’ve said I’m so tight I squeak, but the structure of our rapacious culture demands participation from everyone. And I too worry about my children’s possible decline in standard of living.
I hope that ten years from now we will be saying this crisis signaled the beginning of a pendulum swing toward more sustainable living. In materials things, we need to stop striving for MORE and be happy with ENOUGH, to stop striving for material riches and strive for spiritual riches—the most important values. One inevitable result would be more for the hungry and destitute of the world. (April 5, 2009)
Multimillion dollar bonuses are no longer admired. “High end” shops are no longer the coolest places. People look for ways to live frugally and thank God for what they have.
Our economic meltdown is jolting us awake, reminding us of what we know deep down but forget when we’re caught in the treadmill of earning and buying:
• Piling up stuff does not make us happy
• Suffering fosters compassion for others who suffer.
• Spiritual values soothe and endure through thick and thin, no matter what.
• The REALLY good life can have an inverse relationship with money because huge amounts of money insulate us from the want of those with no money. When “everybody” is in the same boat, people are kinder, better, more awake.
Our nation is resetting its mental and spiritual compass, and I rejoice over that while concerned about the financial future of myself, my loved ones, and everyone else.
Tonight I’m off to the Women and Spirituality Symposium at Cleveland State University to present the message of God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky—that Christian language must be understood symbolically, without claiming exclusive superiority. Then it can have meaning for all spiritual ways, religious and secular.
This is another jolting realization coming from our evolving world.