Saturday, November 27, 2004

Consumer Spirituality

Current thinking seems to denigrate a lifestyle pursuing wealth, money, and objects rather than spiritual or mental development. This lifestyle is sneeringly referred to as "materialistic".

We are exhorted to "Be A Consumer Hero" by participating in "International No Shopping Day". If we want to save the planet, we are told, we must stop our incessant "buying of things we don't need." Church sermons encourage everyone not to lose sight of the REALLY IMPORTANT things and to reject the materialism of our capitalistic society. Hardly a day goes by--especially during the Christmas season when there is not an editorial, article or impassioned plea for us to stop listening to advertisements that "force" us to buy more and more.

I'm afraid I fail to see the problem. To listen to these people you would think that human beings are entirely spiritual beings, existing in a golden glow of non-material nothingness. You would think that people are not composed of matter and have substance in a 3-dimensional, material world.

Even more importantly, you might begin to get the idea that the highest ideals of society should be to encourage poverty, homelessness, nudity, and hunger. From the perspective of the "spiritualists", malnourished children in societies of mud huts wearing rags and owning nothing- would be the epitome of human existence.

Now, let me qualify. I am not at all opposed to spirituality or mental development; nor am I the sort of materialist who thinks that mental phenomena simply do not exist at all. On the contrary--all the goods and services that our wonderful capitalistic society makes possible would not exist unless there were thinking, rational MINDS creating them. The clothing, toys, electronics, and other material goods that we "don't need" were created by human MINDS, who first imagined them in their thoughts, then found a way to make their thoughts real. When Marxists talk about "controlling the means of production" they are quite simply talking about controlling the human MIND.

The history of humanity has been driven by those individuals who have been able to make the non-material real. This transformation of abstract concepts into material goods; of the spiritual into the actual--has been largely responsible for mankind's evolution from caves to modern cities.

Human thought, human ingenuity, human creativity, human emotion (all non-material and components of "spirituality and mental development", I'm sure you'll agree) are the foundations of the material progress you see all around you in the United States. When those non-material components of human existence are extrapolated to the real world, the results are the goods and services that overflow in abundance in economically free societies.

By appreciating those goods and services, I pay homage to the human mind.
By purchasing those goods and services, I honor human creativity.
By means of materialism --pursuing wealth, money and objects--I happily provide the means by which many humans can benefit from the imagination of one. I contribute to the advancement of humanity from poverty to wealth; from homelessness to shelter; from hunger to satiety. By embracing materialism, I believe I am embracing the the highest human spiritual and mental development.

I love "things" because they are human thought made visible. I enjoy giving "objects" to people I love because they are the concrete expressions of my love.

And when I see all the wonders for sale in the stores--no matter how silly or trivial they may be--I see them as a celebration of the human spirit.


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