Have you ever been thinking about something and then everywhere you turn you're confronted with articles or stories about the very thing you're thinking about? That happened to me right before Christmas.
I had been thinking about "stuff" and its hold over our lives for a while. All the news about the economy and people losing their jobs and their homes had me thinking a lot about the choices that we as a country, in general, have made. We seem to be driven by a desire for "stuff" and I think that desire has led us to hell in the proverbial handbasket.
See, me and "stuff" go way back. I've always wanted "stuff." My mom more than provided for the things that I needed and in most cases she also gave me what I wanted, but there are a few instances when she just could not justify the expense of whatever it was I was craving at the moment. As a parent, I get that. Boy, do I get that. However, as a teenager, all I felt was WANT.
And sometimes I have let my want for "stuff" make me miserable. Why does so-and-so have such-and-such and I don't? Why do they have a new house, a new car, an iPod, whatever? I can remember once, in college, sobbing in the car as listened to Colin Ray's song "Someone Else's Star,"
I guess I must be wishing onGah. I can remember as clear as day how much it hurt watching my dreams come true for other people. It was when I was reading The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs right before Christmas that I was struck with a realization. (This is an awesome book, by the way, no matter your religious views -- or even lack thereof. Jacobs attempts to follow all the laws, no matter how obscure or odd, for an entire year. It's hilarious, thought-provoking, and touching. I highly recommend it.)
Someone else’s star
It seems like someone else keeps getting
What I’m wishing for
Why can’t I be as lucky
As those other people are
I guess I must be wishing
On someone else’s star
In one of the first chapters, Jacobs addresses the issue of coveting, as in Thou Shalt Not Covet, number 10 of the Ten Commandments. The actual commandment reads "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not cove your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's." He goes on to talk about different interpretations of what "to covet" might mean in modern society, but I realized that's my problem. For most of my life, I've wanted what other people had. To the extent that it has made me unhappy -- very unhappy in some cases. Jacobs says that some rabbis say that coveting means you are so desirous of obtaining material goods that you have veered from the path of being thankful for what God provides.
Even if you don't believe in God, I think that an obsessive desire for what you DON'T have can blind you to all the good things that you DO have. Don't get me wrong -- I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting stuff, you just can go overboard with it.
Anyway, all of these thoughts, combined with the Christmas advertising onslaught, the kids' incessant cry of "I want, I want" and a thought provoking essay by Anna Quindlen, all of these things combined to make me do some serious thinking....which I'll share with you tomorrow. This whole entry is convoluted and long enough for today.