When we had cable, Karl and I would constantly watch HGTV, and dream about how we could remodel the house... making furniture, repainting, etc. Commercials would feature gorgeous stainless steel appliances in a kitchen sleek and clean. It created dissatisfaction with the great house that we have now, because there was always a sense that it could be better. We just needed the materials, the time, and the money to do it -right? It is much like the image of Barbie for young girls - there is the reality vs. the fantasy factor. And, what is it that we are fantasizing about when we want the newest thing or best thing? It says something about us when what we have is not enough. It says that we are not enough without this stuff... without the perfect shape... without this and this.
The American economy is intricately caught up in a web of consumer spending. We are no longer export-driven - our economy is based on an over-consumptive model of people buying more and more. It will be interesting whether the lessons of this current economic crisis manifest permanent changes in the ethos of consumerism and waste. How can we reshape this model when we are stuck in this cycle of spending? It is not an easy answer. I heard a report on NPR that people are actually putting some money back in savings now. I think it is a hopeful sign when people feel like they can save, or put away something for later. There is this discipline of waiting for the right moment to use that money - a certain spiritual practice of delayed gratification.
We have learned to do without cable during seminary and happily get our media from Netflix and the Internet. My children get some commercial exposure from stores and the websites where they play games, but there is a relative lack of "I wants." They find fun in shopping at garage and rummage sales and finding the treasures of books and toys. I want to understand that what I have is enough, and this is a core value I want my children to understand as well. We live on a planet with finite resources. I don't need to even quote the monstrous consumption that the Western world takes of those resources, because it is apparent in the way we live and operate.
We are at the brink of choices around green technology, climate change, and the values that move our economy. I have gratitude for our land of plenty, yet our land of plenty will not supply us forever at this rate. I hope that we can learn to leave less of footprint on the world, and give back to our Mother. I hope that we can learn what is enough - that we are enough. It affects our self image, it affects our economy, and it affects the future.