“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

Christian living books are really not material that makes its way onto my bookshelves very often. Although I have been attending my local United Methodist Church regularly (a late development), and I do enjoy it a lot, I would describe myself as more spiritual than religious. My relationship with my Supreme Being is very direct and personal, and neither of us seem to stand a lot on dogma.

But my middle brother has become very involved in the youth ministry at his church back in New York, and as a Christmas gift, he sent me this:

Raising Kids for True Greatness

You could have no children, completely skim the references to Christianity and read only the chapter on the differences between scarcity and abundance thinking and you will have gotten your money’s worth from the book.

The premise is this – our society is based on the idea that our measures of success are based on scarcity thinking, that things worth having derive their value from the fact that they are limited. Exclusivity increases value. From the standpoint of personal and society development, this is a recipe for disaster. It is a concept that places us in constant competition with each other, a system with a few “winners” and a losing majority. And the idea is that the constant competition will ultimate lead to innovation which ideally benefits all by trickle-down.

But it is a system that by its nature, by its very design breeds discontent. Progress is defined and driven by the feeling that happiness is brought by things that not everyone has. We are an economy and a society that is motivated by unhappiness.

How completely messed up is that?

I am an acknowledged gadget girl, and you are going to laugh when I tell you this, but if I think of all those moments where I am the most supremely contented, there isn’t a single material possession involved.

What brings me happiness?

Family.

Friends.

A job well done.

All these things are things that are available to us in abundance for the making. If we teach our children (and ourselves) that THESE are the things that bring us happiness, that these are the measurements of a good life, well lived, they will have the formula to live contented, fulfilling lives. If we convey to them somehow that we measure our worth by the car we drive of the size of our house, we are setting them up to compare their lives to the inevitable person with the larger house and the more expensive car, instead of teaching them that we “win” when we reach out and share what we have to create the circumstances for true happiness – companionship and cooperation.

We are setting them up to be unhappy. We are teaching discontentedness

And yet, avoiding that exact situation is damnably difficult. We are constantly bombarded by messages that tell us that the quality of life is in a bottle or can be placed on a credit card. Homes are not places to live and to love and to make memories in – they are investments to be traded upward in a race to make the most money and have the most house. We mortgage our happiness in an incremental race without asking ourselves that in the penultimate moment if this will be the way we will measure our existance. Will we leave this world at peace because of what we own? Or will that peace be brought by the happiness and love we gave away and were given?

Stop and think about the messages we send our children. Are their parties about the gifts or the companionship? What do we celebrate when we celebrate? What do we discard? What do we keep? Are our hands and our hearts open or closed?

What do we tell them about the value of life?

June 24th, 2008 at 11:52 am
4 Responses to “The misplaced power of exclusivity”
  1. 1
    Deirdre Says:

    Ya know, I so get this. I used to spend a lot of time wrapping gifts in very creative ways. Even drawing or painting little works of art on them. then people would just rip right through the loving work of my hands to get to “the real present”

    Turns out what I was really proud to give them was the wrapping with my artwork on it, not (usually) the present inside. so i stopped doing it.
    I need to learn to start making the artwork into the present and just wrap it in plain paper. Less heartache.

    sad sad world.

    p.s. I just finished reading “Creative Correction” which is a fantastic read for some of the same reasons you have covered in your post.

  2. 2
    OS Says:

    It is truly hard to keep your kids out of that sea of want. But kids need it. So few get to experience real yearning anymore. Saving up for a special thing. Learning the true value in earning something. And then treasuring it because you did. Inspiration to do homemade gifts again for Christmas . . . You always give me good things to think about.

  3. 3
    Oneluckymommy Says:

    mmmm – my mom did a GOOD job then.

    Example: When giving a gift – the trick is to get the *right* thing – even if it only cost 50 cents – if it makes the person squeal in delight or brings tears to their eyes – you win!

    So I was taught, indirectly, to ” reach out and share…[in order to]…to create the circumstances for true happiness.”

    My favorite birthday party was the one where we invited 6 little girls to “tea” – we all dressed up in our mom’s clothes and big hats and had a formal tea party. I don’t remember the presents or anything else, but I remember the *fun* of a formal tea party with friends.

    I can name most Connecticut wildflowers, sing in a chorus, play piano (badly), sew a basic dress, and make cookies because of my mom. THESE were considered valuable skills – and i was tught that they were done for the enjoyment *of others* as well as myself.

    Of course, we were pretty low income for almost all of my childhood. What we blew $ on was travel – seeing places, meeting people and doing cool things (like the beach and Norway).

    Thanks mom! (and dad)

  4. 4

    My daughter was enamored with the commercials that played while a show that we watched every day was on. So, I have been taking this opportunity to point out that each of these commercials is trying to sell us something. Right now, I’m just teaching her to identify what is being sold. Soon, we’ll talk about how things just don’t live up to the hype.

    I’m not one to talk, I guess, about material things. I have my own share of “stuff,” and I’ve been constantly carting my mom’s stuff away from my dad’s house, things that I can’t bear to part with (my mom died last September). My mom saved everything. I’m not quite as bad, but the seeds are there.