posted on Jul, 25 2008 @ 06:15 PM
For the past week, I have been thinking about some of the things I read on here (reflecting a worldly view) and the things I see on my runs
(reflecting a regional view) and even the things I see around home (reflecting a local view). All have one thing I find notable in common.
Most people live their life based on 'things' they buy.
I think back to my childhood. We were 'poor' back then, but we had two vehicles: my father's old '66 GMC pickup and my mother's car. I had plenty
of toys, not expensive ones, but ones I still enjoyed playing with. We never went hungry. We had our own house, small, but enough. My father never
really had a 'career', but he always had a job.
We got a black-and-white TV, a Zenith floor console model, before anyone else in the neighborhood did. I still remember neighbors coming over to watch
TV with us. It wasn't long, though, before everyone around had a color TV... except us.
You see, my Dad never worried about having something someone else had. He had what he wanted, and if he wanted something more, he would do what it
took to get it. Sometimes, he had to save money for a year or more; other times he found another way. He wanted a riding lawn mower to make cutting
the yard easier, but he couldn't afford it. So he got an old Yazoo walk-behind self-propelled lawn mower and rigged up a harness to pull my red wagon
behind it and still be able to work the controls. He had what he wanted, and folks still talk sometimes about seeing him sitting in a lawn chair in
that little wagon behind his 'riding lawn mower'.
He wanted a small tractor to help with cutting firewood, but at the time he couldn't afford one, and really wasn't happy with what was available
anyway. he wanted something that could jump the rocks in the mountain and had enough power to drag a decent-sized tree behind it while jumping. So he
made himself a forge out of limestone rocks and an old hand-cranked blower he found at a yard sale. He bought a Briggs-and Straton engine and hooked
it up to a series of belts and pulleys with a lever for a clutch. He found old car parts in various salvage yards: a steering gearbox, a rear end, a
straight-shift transmission. He used his forge to cut and bend and shape sheet steel he picked up from recycling places to make a front end, and he
used an old tractor seat off a rusting hulk from yesteryear. He built a tractor from scrap, and it never once failed to pull whatever he needed pulled
off that mountain.
Later on, he needed a trailer behind it. He built one out of an old pickup rear end and some lumber from a sawmill. It finally rotted away in the
years since his death, but that old tractor is still here, and now belongs to me. Money would not buy it.
Even before that, when he needed a house of his own, he decided he didn't have the money to hire one built, so he decided to build one. He couldn't
afford all the lumber, so he struck a deal with a contractor in town who was re-building a store: he would tear the old one down and haul it off for
nothing but the materials. Every day after work, he would stop by and start ripping pieces off. He would bring in what he had and store it in his
little garage until the job was done. It really didn't take long, as the story goes (I was about a year old, so I really don't have vivid recall of
this time), for him to finish his part of the deal, and he built our house with the wood he had salvaged. The house stands today, in view of my
window, and is still as solid as the day he drove the last nail. Even before that, he cleared the land by hand, using an old chainsaw and his pickup
I never remember him complaining about needing anything, despite our meager income. I know he never begged, or rarely even asked, for anything; it
wasn't in his nature. Now, as I compare the lives of people today to our life back then, I see a stark contrast.
Today, the thought of building one's own house would be considered ludicrous. Add in a barter arrangement to get the lumber, and one would be scoffed
at. Make a tractor? Heavens, no, go buy one, complete with A/C, a radio, power steering... don't have the money? Borrow it and get what you want. You
can pay later.
be seen on a red wagon instead of a lawn tractor? Preposterous!
Even his philosophy with the TV goes unheeded. Today, someone would feel compelled to do whatever it took to get a color TV as soon as it was
available. The neighbors getting one would be the final deciding point; can't let the people next door think we can't afford one. We have to keep up
appearances with the latest fashion, the latest novelties, the latest appliances. I see beautiful furniture sitting on the side of the road regularly,
waiting for the garbage truck. I know people who have put things like this out, for the simple reason of "we want new furniture". Check around, and
you'll likely find that a neighbor just got new furniture every time.
As we have sank into this 'keep up with the Jones' lifestyle, something else has happened: we are angrier. Happiness is said to be found in that new
purchase, according to the ads we see all around us. Look at the people in those ads; they are all smiling! That's not a coincidence; it is
purposeful, because the advertiser wants you to think that this will make you happy, too.
It won't. Trust me. I almost fell into that trap, and every purchase was a few moments of joy followed by a nagging sense of unfulfillment. Why?
Because I hadn't had to really work for it. It was too easy, too simple, just stop by the store and write a check. Now, just type in a card number
while at home, and that gleaming new toy will be delivered right to your door, with payments deferred. But let me try to make something, to have to
think out a way to get the things I want, and those things bring with them a sense of accomplishment, of fulfillment, and, yes, of joy. I still buy
things, but not for the joy they will bring; I buy tools for the joy that using them will bring.
And just as I think we have sunk to the lowest level of materialism, a new level is revealed: entitlements. Now, one no longer has to even work to
have a place to live, or food they want. Now, with the aid of 'democracy', big brother will give us the things we want. Now there's no need to even
get a job. You can sit around all day and enjoy life, or can you? If just buying what you want leaves a sense of unfulfillment, what does this new way
to receive things bring? A deeper hole, and a hopelessness that we are trying to fill with more and more material things. And in this mad rush to
satisfy our need for happiness through a method that destroys happiness, we become angry and bitter. We lash out at anyone who disagrees with us, who
gets in our way driving to the store for that latest 'fix', who dares try to stop and talk to us about something we don't care about.
It's no wonder we have road rage, school shootings, riots, domestic abuse, or just a rude society in general.
I'm posting this to get your opinion on this trend in society, and what (if anything) we can do to reverse it. I'm not concerned about myself, but
for others. I think my admiration for my father, combined with the time I spent with him in my youth, has rendered me immune; a few months back, our
old 27" TV started going out (picture would squeeze up a bit). The other day, I splurged and spent hard-earned savings to buy a new TV. I walked
right past the nice big HDTV plasma sets (which we might could actually afford) to a little 27" regular TV for about $200. I took it home and plugged
it in and really enjoyed a night of watching it without the picture squeezing together. So did my family. We were happy with our new TV, and we still