Thursday, November 22, 2007

The myth of consumption

Sometime in your life, hope that you might see one starved man, the look on his face when the bread finally arrives. Hope that you might have baked it or bought or even kneaded it yourself. For that look on his face, for the meeting of your eyes across a piece of bread, you might be willing to loose a lot, or suffer a lot, or die a little, even.

Daniel Berrigan

I read this quote for the first time this morning in an amazing diary by Hillary Rettig and OPOL titled Giving Thanks for Progressive Activists and its been on my mind all day. I've been thinking alot about the myriad of myths that we respond to almost automatically without much awareness. When we read a quote like that, it resonates deeply. We know it is truth. And yet the myth that getting more for ourselves will somehow make us happy is how we tend to live our lives.

We've all had the experience of giving something meaningful to someone in need - be it emotional or physical. And we know that it brings a sense of happiness and meaning that can never be matched by our own possessions. So I wonder why we, as a culture, never seem to learn from these very real experiences we have.

I know that a big part of the problem is the bombardment of the media in creating the illusion that their products will bring happiness and fullfillment if we only work hard enough to have the means to purchase them. But I still believe that IN OUR HEARTS, we know this is a lie. And still the cycle goes on.

There are actually a myriad of complex issues that get in our way of giving rather than consuming, not the least of which is that we don't spend much time around those who are truly in need. Giving money to an organization that is going to give that man/woman/child a piece of bread means that we never see the look in their eyes and we loose that life-changing experience Berrigan is talking about.

But really, I think that what is ultimately at the root of our need to consume rather than share is fear. On the surface, its fear about what others will think of us if we don't have what we think that they think we should have. We need to prove ourselves worthy - to have somehow "made it" by the kind of possessions we have.

And then on a deeper level, there is the fear of not having enough. The myth of scarcity that Lynne Twist talks about in her book The Soul of Money. If we thought there was enough for us, we might be more likely to share. But we've never learned the meaning of "enough" we always need more.

Anyway, these are just some rambling thoughts I've had today, sparked by the quote from Berrigan. What I hope to take with me is the anticipation of the look in the eyes of someone who's hungry and I just happen to have a loaf of bread. That's the thrill I want to anticipate.

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