While I have my hippie tendencies, I am fully capable of shopping my brains out, and I'm all too familiar with the term "retail therapy." But every once in a while, the grossed-out-by-stuff phase hits me full force, and I start thinking how awful and downright disgusting it is that in a world where people don't have safe drinking water or enough to eat, and when there are kids in our own zip codes who don't have coats or roofs, that I in all my privilege and abundance, somehow feel entitled to purchase frivolous and completely unnecessary things. Whether for myself or others, it's still stuff, and it feels gluttonous when many have so little.
And if I think about it too long I end up feeling weighed down and even bloated by possessions, wasteful indulgence, etc. I've had a hard time articulating my thoughts on this but have just had a nagging, foggy sense of OBS syndrome (Overwhelmed By Stuff) as of late. So I was delighted to find this article in the latest New Era (a church magazine for teens...."Why are you reading a teen magazine, gurrbonzo?", you ask? Well, because I work with that age group at church, dear reader. Not because I'm clinging to my fading youth...although perhaps I am...but at least that's free).
Anyway, the article is called Enough Stuff: Five Tips for Tackling Materialism, by David A. Edwards. I recommend the whole thing as a perfectly-timed discussion, but may I share some excerpts?
We all need stuff—stuff to wear, stuff to eat, stuff for home, stuff for school. And, of course, beyond the necessities there’s also the stuff we want but don’t really need, as well as the stuff we dream about but could never afford. There’s big stuff and little stuff, girl stuff and guy stuff, stuff for work and stuff for play, stuff for now and stuff for later. It seems the world is filled with stuff. If we’re not careful, we can have a hard time seeing past all that stuff. Material possessions (both those we have and those we want) can obstruct our view of who we really are and what life is really about. ..."Obstructing our view of who we really are and what life is really about" is what I meant but failed to express very clearly in my grumpy post from last month. Stuff gets in our way and prevents us from seeing the world and ourselves. He then gives five tips on overcoming materialism, all of which I found thought-provoking.
1. Know who you are. One of the most subtle and dangerous aspects of materialism is the false identity it can give us. When we think of ourselves in terms of our stuff—whether it’s our clothes, our toys, or our money—we paint a pale and shrunken picture of ourselves...But the Savior reminds us, “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).
UAdd a Note 2. Know where you're going. The scriptures give us several correctives to the “gimme, gimme” philosophy. The prophet Alma taught, “Seek not after riches nor the vain things of this world; for behold, you cannot carry them with you” (Alma 39:14). You’ve probably heard the saying “You can’t take it with you.” Well, it’s scriptural...So where should our focus be? The Savior has told us to look beyond the way station of this world toward our final destination. He said, “Seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 6:38). He also taught, “Thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” (D&C 25:10).
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3. Be Grateful. Modern prophets have taught that gratitude can transform our lives...And the Lord Himself has promised, “He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more” (D&C 78:19).
4. Think outside yourself. ...Material things, along with the ways they are marketed, move our focus onto ourselves rather than others. In this way, materialism can cause us to quietly reject the Lord’s commandment to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). This focus on self and the stuff of this world is not part of living “after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). In fact, modern research seems to have verified that (1) you can’t buy happiness and (2) a focus on others can bring greater personal satisfaction. As Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (1917–2008) taught, “We are happiest when our lives are connected to others through unselfish love and service.”
UAdd a Note"The incessant drone of materialism" is exactly how I've been feeling about the whole thing. It's deafening sometimes. Is that article great or what? Does the holiday season consumerism make you pukey sometimes, too? What do you think of all this? Have you figured out a way to balance it? Agree or disagree?
5. Be wise. Again, we all need some stuff, and most stuff is neither good nor bad in and of itself...But over time the incessant drone of materialism can influence our attitudes and thoughts and cause us to forget the Lord and His commandments, as well as our true selves. So we must be on guard.... “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”Matthew 6:19–21. UAdd a Note