by Carol Hohle
When do you know you have enough: enough material possessions, enough wealth, enough family and friends, enough time and activity, enough happiness, love and companionship?
I’ve been asking myself this question often the past couple years, especially around the issue of material possessions. It seems to be a fairly pertinent question – at least in the “land of plenty” community where I live. Every day I’m confronted with advertising and storefronts telling me to purchase something. It’s an unusual day when my wallet stays closed. What’s got us obsessed with consumption – with more possessions? How many possessions do we need? Is this the after effect of watching “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” in the ‘80s?
I’m not asking this question to be cynical or critical of others choices – it’s really a question aimed at my own need to think about this issue. I’ve been on this more and bigger bandwagon myself. But when I began to take inventory of how many ice cream scoops, shoes, and mittens I own – I wasn’t pleased.
I remember a dear family friend, who would have grown up and raised a family in the 1930-1950 period, commenting when I purchased three phones for my home about fifteen years ago. She would have seen the advent of telephones increasing from one per neighborhood to one per home … remember the wall phone in the kitchen with the really long cord that would get all knotted up and how you would run to the phone to answer it and call out to a family member in the far corner of the house to come to the phone? I often wonder what she’d think of the cell phone per person standard today OR the number of televisions and personal data devices that can be found in a single home!
Not all of this multiplicity is a bad thing either … but has something gotten out of whack when people in the United States are more frequently referred to as CONSUMERS than as CITIZENS?
The dark side of consumption has to do with dissatisfaction and a lack of vitality and happiness. Interesting enough, when I ask myself if I have enough happiness – the question feels irrelevant. I’m either happy or I’m not. I don’t tend to measure my happiness.
This sense of being dissatisfied that comes from the dark side of consumption is sneaky. And, over the course of the past few years I’ve been catching myself when I begin to feel this subtle form of dissatisfaction. I consciously replace the desire for more with feeling satisfied, with being present and aware of the abundance of this moment – in short, being more grateful. I try to never use the word “consumer” in reference to another or myself. When making a purchase I ask myself about its purpose. I am endeavoring to simplify my own lifestyle and recycle some of my acquired possessions to others who would benefit from them more than I could at this juncture.
There’s much more to this subject of being satisfied. I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of its blessing. There’s a childhood hymn I grew up singing. It was from a poem called Satisfied by Mary Baker Eddy. Its meaning is becoming more potent to me now. It begins, “It matters not what be thy lot, so Love doth guide; for storm or shine, pure peace is thine, whate’er betide.”