Salon, an online magazine, has an advice column. I don’t read advice columns, since they are answered from a secular perspective and therefore miss the boat when it comes to problems with spiritual solutions. But the heading for this one read, “I have everything. My life is empty.” I just HAD to see how the columnist answered that one.
The person seeking advice wrote:
I have it all. Life has been good. Though by no means rich, I have money in the bank, a solid marriage and prospects for a comfortable future.
But I am happier when I have less.
The advice columnist wowed me with her wisdom. She really did. Particularly the first paragraph. I added some emphasis.
It is not hard to figure out why the life you have chosen does not make you happy. It was not designed to make you happy. It was designed to maximize your purchases….
Maximizing your purchases will not make you happy. The lifestyle of consumption is not designed to make you happy. It’s designed to make the people who sell you things happy. It’s designed to suck the maximum number of dollars out of you for the maximum number of years, maintaining you as a dependable, lifetime revenue source on the nearly infinite ledger of American capitalism….
In considering how to change your life, remember that you have enemies. Your enemies don’t want you to change. They want to keep you as a dependable revenue source….Your enemies prefer you to be constantly unhappy, constantly in search of things to buy. It is better for your enemies…if you know little of your true capacity for free action, for a relaxed, carefree life devoid of worry. It is better for them if you believe there is no alternative.”
There is much, much more, as the columnist talked about her own journey amidst American materialism. But I found these opening paragraphs to be very perceptive.
Our whole society is designed around materialism. We want to possess tings. We’re told that saving money is good, and yet our economy will collapse if people don’t spend. Buying stuff is partly what it means to be an American. It’s practically patriotic.
As a Christian, I know that I’m not made for this world. I’ve been “fearfully and wonderfully made” for something eternal–to love God and enjoy him forever, as the catechism says, and to make a difference in people’s lives while inhabiting earth. I’m not designed to be a consumer. Not designed to fit neatly into a man-made political category. Not even designed to be United Brethren, or Nazarene, or some other religious brand. I’m made for something not of this world.
The world’s systems won’t bring me happiness. I’ve got to remember that.