I was listening to our local NPR station a day or two after the election and what they talked about more than anything else on Talk at 12 was the idea of consumption and consumerism.
One of the commentators said that at first she was troubled by the fact that a retail giant like Circuit City was closing so many stores, but then she stopped herself and asked - do we really need all of these things?
My generation has been raised to believe that we can have anything we want. It's true. And it's not necessarily a selfish thing... after all, our economy runs on consumption. President Bush told us after 9/11 to go out there and shop. Businesses survive and thrive because we buy single use items, throw things away rather than repair them, and always want the newest, the best, the most fashionable.
Another one of the commentators on the show asked a simple question - maybe the question isn't about more, but about better. Maybe we need to ask ourselves what is more important, having more things, or having better air?
I think that people in my generation are trying to make this switch to cleaner, safer, more earth-friendly consumption, whether that means recycling more, buying bamboo products (my cousins recently did part of their wedding registry at target just by selecting everything that was made of bamboo ;), buying CFL bulbs, etc.
But the simple fact is, it's still consumption. And it's still expensive.
I personally have a lot to confess about my own patterns of consumption. I want things I don't need and probably shouldn't have. Like a blackberry pearl. (which my husband says I can't have). I've been longing to buy things especially, though, for our house.
I want to get a beautiful matching bedroom set - nothing too fancy, but right now, we just have the bed and my husband has a bookshelf on his side of the bed and we have a dresser. But there is nothing on my side of the bed. So I want the whole package. And because I'll want something more eco-friendly, we'll probably end up paying twice as much for it.
And I told him that the other day, I was lamenting the fact that we are working on paying off our student loans and can't just go out and buy something.
And as soon as I had my little rant and pouting fit, I felt terrible. I felt like all of those things I believe about "live simply so that others may simply live" was complete rubbish deep down inside. I thought - is this really who I am?
My husband surprised me the other day. I got home, and he took this old glass top end table that had been broken (the legs were no longer attached to the top) and he fixed it, and he set it up beside my bed. And put my alarm clock and my lotion and all of my little things on it.
And I think that it was the best gift I have recieved in a long time. Because it reminded me of why I married him. And it reminded me that I can be happy with less. And it reminded me that we have so much stuff in this world, more than we even know what to do with and that we don't need more, we just need to find new ways to use what we have. I think that it was the best gift I have recieved because it made me feel like a better person, like I can live what I'm preaching.