“Contentment is natural wealth; luxury is artificial poverty.” ~ Socrates
I was talking with D in the kitchen the other day, and remarked “Imagine if we only had one bowl, one spoon and one cup each? Think how easy it would be to do the dishes?” We went further and imagined less and less stuff. “How about only two sets of clothes each?” A long discussion brought us to the conclusion that our culture is driven by greed. Always wanting more, whether you need it or not.
The Rat Race
In our society, there is a certain amount of pressure to follow a path that looks something like this:
Study hard to get a good job, work hard to earn as much as possible, get married, have a couple of kids, send them to school to work hard to get a good job. Meanwhile, buy a house, borrow as much as you can to get the biggest and nicest house possible. Work hard for the next 30-40 years to pay off the mortgage and eek out some sort of a retirement for yourself. All the way along, buy as much lovely stuff as you can. Keep upgrading to the latest computer, phone, car and entertainment centre. This requires a large income and /or more debt and eventually a bigger house. Work work and more work. Both parents will probably have to work to sustain this ‘lifestyle’, and the result is debt, excessively busy lives, and less and less quality family time together. And what sort of a life is that?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who find this whole process pointless. All that work and stress to have more stuff, but less time and energy to really enjoy it.
A friend posted the above quote from Socrates on facebook just a day or so after D and I had talked about these things, and it got me thinking more. Really. I mean I really don’t need or want all this stuff. I spend so many hours of my life managing our possessions. How many hours do I spend doing meaningful things? Well, since I am caring for children, I guess quite a few, but not as many as I could if only I wasn’t forever cleaning the house, tidying toys, washing clothes, shopping for food, cooking it, doing the dishes etc.
What Do I Really Want?
The good life. What is it?
I want to spend time with those I love. This means my husband and four young children, my parents and brother and extended family (who are overseas). It means my friends (some here, some far away). I want to have quality relationships, where we really know and love each other. Relationships which are mutually supportive, inspiring, and bring out the best in each other.
I want to have time to do something meaningful in the world. Making life a little more as God intended it for one person. Or two. Or more. Hopefully more. To help those who weren’t born into the privilege I was. And to learn from them too.
I want to have time to learn. I am so hungry to learn about so many things. It’s a real shame I wasn’t interested in my school days because now I find myself interested in a whole range of things I once didn’t care about. Politics, history, literature, economics, sociology, philosophy. Probably more.
I want to teach my children everything I know (which is not much) and give them a glimpse of the myriad things I don’t. I want to inspire them to become all that they can. I want the ability to travel with them, to show them a world so different from their own, so much bigger that what they currently know.
I could go on. But none of the things that are truly important to me have anything to do with owning stuff. (Except maybe books. I can’t help that)
This leads me to my point. (Yes, I know…it was a long time coming).
I want to get rid of all the crap in my life.
I don’t want my life cluttered with baubles and trinkets that I don’t need, and that prevent me from really living. I want the freedom that comes from being content with what I have and not always wanting more.
This is not going to happen overnight. I’m not even sure what it will look like in practise. I do know that for starters there are things I’m not using in my home that I can give away or sell.
It has yet to be seen how far I can/will go on this. The pull of our greedy capitalistic culture is strong, so it’s not easy to live in a city and live simply. But I’m sure going to try; I will start by down sizing, down grading, cleaning out and giving away. Eventually I hope to answer the question :
What do we really NEED?