Things I’ve learned from Killing Consumerism #7 – Consuming makes the world go ’round?

In general, when people have asked me about my non-shopping project this year, they’ve been somewhat impressed. I get lots of questions about how hard it is and what I do and don’t buy and how I’m coping.

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This question, over lunch one Sunday, was a new one:

‘But doesn’t our economy rely on consumerism?’

Now that, I hadn’t thought of.

If westerners, presumably the largest consumer body in the world, ceased to consume to the same excessive extent that we do, would our economies, or even the economies of many poorer countries that support our habits, collapse?

Has the world become reliant on our greed and excess?

I don’t know. But it doesn’t really worry me for two reasons:

  1. I don’t see a large-scale departure from our consumerist ways, and
  2. I think it’s more of a moral issue than an economic one.

Greed and gorging on excess is something that should probably prick the conscience of any moralist. I think we can all afford to depart from excessive consumerism on moral grounds, and leave the economy to God.

After all, when a country sticks to God’s moral law, things tend to go pretty well.

Go figure.

How do I know I’m not a psychopath?

Yes, I have actually asked myself this question. Very occasionally, when I remember the following two things, I have a mini freak out.

  1. We are all likely capable of unspeakable evilindex
  2. It only takes one screw up of epic proportions in the space of a few minutes to completely change your life.

What is it that is restraining me from a momentary epic screw up, and how strong is that thing that’s restraining me?

I was reflecting on this with a very down to earth friend who surprised me with her answer. She said first that we obviously create personal boundaries and make daily choices to adhere to a moral code to reduce the chances of an epic ‘brain fart,’ but that if we accidently screw up, jail isn’t actually the end of the world.

What? I actually thought it was! But she’s right. When you know God and you know grace, screwing up is never the end of the world.

But still, it’s not ideal.

This morning she sent me this quote: “Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.”

Immediately after, I saw this by Challies: “God’s providence is the single greatest hindrance to the tsunamis of sin that would otherwise gush out of our sinful hearts.”

So, I think I’m safe. But it is a good reminder that when I see people who have epically screwed up, I need to remember that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

If you talk pretty, you can say almost anything you like

 

photoA print out of this quote hangs in one of my classrooms: Good English, well spoken and well written, will open more doors than a college degree. Bad English will slam doors you didn’t even know existed.

It’s a great quote, but behind it lies something sinister.

When people talk pretty, we lap it up.

I’ve just finished watching Q and A, a live political question and answer show broadcast here in Australia. An African-American man was on tonight who spoke like a poet with a bluesy lilt and flawless rhythm. The audience lapped it up. I loved him… he was on point as my teenagers would say, but did we really know what he was saying? I sure didn’t.

If you can talk pretty people will follow you…

(Russel Brand)

… wherever you go…

(Adolf Hitler)

…Beware the power of the great orator

Stephen Hawking: The tragedy of a wasted life

240px-Stephen_Hawking.StarChildA while back I went to see the movie ‘The Theory of Everything.’

A brilliant physicist, Oxford University and a love story: It was a recipe guaranteed to hook me, and it did.

I am far from the first to be captivated by the genius. To think that such extraordinary intellect can be trapped within such a broken body is both tragic and inspiring.

I am awed by men like Hawking, both past and present, who have walked and conquered the halls of the greatest universities on earth. I wish that ‘A brief history of time’ wasn’t something that would go entirely over my head. I admire Hawking for more than his intellect; for his perseverance, his fighting spirit and his sense of humour.

He is truly a man who will go down in history.

But that is all.

And I found myself wondering if that is enough.

If all we can hope for in this life is to do enough to be remembered, then Hawking represents the epitome of success. But what if it’s true that there is more?

What if it’s true that Hawking spent much of his life arguing against the existence of a God that he will one day face?

Then his brilliance was all for nothing, and his life was a tragic waste.

And suddenly the greatest minds of the halls of Oxford pale in comparison to the common man who sits with his Bible and knows the creator.

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #6 – You don’t know it’s enough til it’s enough

shopping--outlet--skirt--skirts_3196466“Miss, I haven’t seen you wear the same thing all year.”

This comment came from one of my year 12 boys last week. Now let’s face it, boys aren’t the most observant, I’m sure I’ve worn several things multiple times, but he does have a point.

I’ve generally aimed to mix and match and not wear the same thing multiple times in the classroom… in a weird sort of way I think it’s respectful to the kids… but who would have thought that four months in to not buying anything I’d still be managing to not double up. In fact, as I think about it, there are multiple items in my wardrobe (I’d take a stab and say 20) that I actually haven’t worn all year.

So, once again I find myself asking how it was that I ever really believed that I ‘needed’ more stuff. Maybe it’s because you don’t know it’s enough till it’s enough. You don’t know you’re being excessive until you realize how easily you can live with less.

I’ve got 99 problems…

IMG_603953887545918Unfortunately this meme is too often reminiscent of my life. In fact lately, I’ve come face-to-face with the fact that when my life feels like it’s spinning out of control, it’s usually mostly in my head.

Now my head is a very real and complex place, so it’s not like that realization suddenly solves all my problems, but it does help to put some things in perspective. It also helps to find my solution.

See I might have 99 problems, but I have one solution.

When I don’t understand myself or I’m anxious about other people or I can’t seem to control my circumstances, there is one place that is my quiet eye in the storm. There is one place where I’m the most real version of me; a place where the crazy woman with her 99 made up problems fades away.

When I’m alone, on my floor, with my Bible.

When I’m reading the words of my Anchor within the veil and remembering that I was not made, primarily, for here.

It’s a comforting thought to know that the wild, heady confusion has a resting place.

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #5- I’m still hungover from my drunkenness

I’ve been trying to figure out why it’s been so ridiculously easy for me to quit shopping. So easy, in fact, that I’ve felt like I must be cheating somehow.

empty-glass--wine_19-135581There are three options that I can see:

  1. I was never really hooked in the first place
  2. I’m finding enough loopholes to keep up the habit anyway
  3. I’m still hungover from my drunkenness.

I think it’s probably a combination of all three, but the most interesting one is the latter. I’m not a drinker, but I get the impression that when you’re hungover, you really don’t feel the need for another drink. Quitting shopping is easy when you’ve been drunk off of consumerism so long that there is actually nothing you could possibly need.

The deal was that if I needed something, instead of buying, I’d make, or borrow, or swap. It has been two and a half months and I’ve neither made, nor borrowed, nor swapped. I’m full up of stuff.

So why on earth did I shop before? I guess it must have been a hobby; a past time or entertainment.

So now? Well I just replace it with dinners or friends or reading or whatever else I feel like doing and that is that. Because at the moment there’s nothing I need. I’m still drunk from before.

The one thing that makes you most useless to God

I doubt there is any sin more prevalent in the hearts of fallen humanity, nor one so destructive than that of pride.
In fact, the other day, I began to wonder whether there was any person more useless to God than the one whose heart is consumed with pride.crumpled-up-paper_2540467

I doubt there is.

I know for myself that when I am focused on my own importance, on building my own kingdom in which I reign supremely as queen, I am about as useless to God and His Kingdom as I can be.

For the Christian who is genuinely focused ahead on the glory of heaven, one thing that should be most frightening is that we may get there, only to look back and discover that we spent our lives being largely useless to God.

As I reflected on this, I began to see, with joy, that God is in the business of destroying pride. In fact, as I look back on the greatest trials I have faced, I can see that God was using them to slowly chip away at this barrier that stands in the way of me being used for noble purposes.

It has made me realize that I should rejoice in any situation that causes my pride to be crucified. For it is in those moments of humility before the Lord, that He can use me for greater glories than I would ever be able to achieve on my own.

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #4 – Oh the irony: When trying to avoid shopping costs you 50 bucks.

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How is that even possible? Well it is.

I’m traveling to Melbourne next week for a friend’s birthday. A few people are heading over for the weekend to go to the footy and shop and then they’ll drive back along the Great Ocean Road.

I decided to avoid the temptation to shop and just fly in on the Monday in time to do the drive back with them.

It all seemed like a good idea, until I booked the wrong flight. Somehow messing up the whole 24 hour time thing, I booked a flight that I thought was arriving at 2.55pm, only to realize it arrived at 22.55pm… long after my friends would have left the city.

Had I booked for any earlier day, it wouldn’t have mattered, but I’d tried to avoid the shopping.

So, I paid my $50 to change my flight, wryly acknowledging that it would have been way more fun to spend the money at a DFO, and I’ll look forward to another shopping-free weekend.

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #4 – Sometimes I really, really want to break the rules

20150310_170422‘Umm, what is that?’ my sister asked me when she came to my house for the first time. ‘You’re not leaving that there are you?’

I have a floor mat. It’s pretending to be a rug, but it’s really just a mat. My housemate and I like it. The colour works in the room and, let’s be honest, the fact that everyone else seems to hate it makes us stubbornly like it more.

But I’ll admit, a month in to the mat pretending to be a rug, and it is starting to wear on me. The truth is, it does look like a panting drop sheet. It’s cream so it gets dirty within a week, and you can’t vacuum it because the vacuum just sucks it up. I’ve machine washed it twice already and it’s too heavy to iron so it just sits on the floor in a rumpled mess.

Whether we like it or not, its days are numbered.

And then I found a rug at IKEA. Like, an actual rug. One that would be vacuumable and that had colours that would work in the house. It was $99. Normally it would be a no brainer. It’s the smart choice. It’s the perfect replacement. It’s what would keep our feet off the cold floor in winter.

But I promised I wasn’t going to buy anything new. So really it should be a no brainer. But I’m agonizing.