Friday, March 17, 2006

My materialism

Time to come real, way clean here.

I am materialistic.

I love stuff.

If I had more money, it would be worse with me than it is.

I struggle with things. I enjoy nice, high-quality things.

I catch myself going to Barnes and Noble to browse and buy books. Cool enough, right?

Yes, but I find myself being "medicated" by my purchases at times.

Stuff and consuming stuff equals escape and relief.

I have to face the fact that I do what I do professionally, at least in part, in an attempt to control my addiction to things.

I like to consume stuff that is sort of weird really.

I mean, I really enjoy fountain pens--nice ones!

I can get into clothes too. I've been known to buy a house faster than a new necktie! Go figure!

I love model cars--diecast replicas of one of my personal passions--the automobile, either cars or trucks.

I love speed--not the drug, but the "behind the wheel" kind.

I'm a NASCAR, Indy Racing League grand dad!

If I had my way, I'd go out today and buy a new Corvette. Have you seen the Z06 models?


I own a 1953, fully restored Chevrolet 1500, five-window pickup (see photo above).

My truck is a rebuilt street rod with a 327 Chevy V-8 attached to a 350 Chevy rear end. The little red machine can move out! I have restored the interior with pleat and roll everywhere.

I enjoy my truck.

Trying to figure out my addiction to some of these things is a bit maddening. I'm sure it goes back to my Mayberry childhood. I don't know.

All I am saying here is I know the dimensions of my struggle. I am trying to battle through it because I know that I don't really need anything.

Lots of people I know need many things--much more basic in nature than most of my consumption concerns.

Part of my struggle is about guilt--classic, white, middleclass shame in face of what I know about my city, my nation and the world. I am repelled by that.

At the same time, I know part of it is "right on" as I try to really listen to my heart.

Part of it is a natural, God-given appreciation for beauty and craft and fineness.

I am trying to walk the tightrope. Sometimes I go into free fall until I find the net and I start all over.

How about you?

Can you relate?


Stephen Jones said...

Can I relate?

At the moment I am sitting at a hipster, Afro-centric breakfast joint that borders Houston's Third Ward. On my table sits a copy of "Notes from My Travels" (Angelina Jolie's diary from her time spent working with refugees in Cambodia) and my $1500 Apple Powerbook. My desire to work with refugees is matched only by my desire to get a larger, faster Powerbook.

You're not alone Larry. May we all more earnestly seek to become the change we wish to see in the world.

RC said...

I leave this afternoon for a medical mission trip to Africa. I always come away feeling great but guilty. I am leaving the clothes I am taking, not because of any sacrifice, but because I have run out of room in my closet. I have never met an electronic gaget that I didn't love. I also struggle with the reality is that if we don't buy things the economy goes in the tank. I think all of us struggle with how to keep a balance. My trips to Africa every year help. They help alot.

Anonymous said...

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,--that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

-- Keats

Jason Coriell said...

I can relate. It is that struggle that motivates me to read your blog every day. I believe that is some important ways, God has taken a portion of the materialism away; yet, there is so much more.

I find the chronicles of the work in Dallas to be inspiring. It has opened my eyes to possibilities in southern Ohio.

Thanks for sharing.

ann said...

I certainly relate! I recently moved back to America from abroad and have been trying to organize my vast collection of *stuff*. I have so much of it, and I'm only 24! So my Lenten fast this year is not spending money on myself or accumulating more stuff. We're only a coulple of weeks into it, but it has already radically changed my point of view as to what I "need" and how I feel about "stuff". You never realize how often or casually you spend money on things until you purpose not to do it. I'm starting to think I used it as some kind of soothing mechanism, because I have found myself often cranky since I stopped shopping.
It's hard, no doubt, especially when I'm craving my favorite meal out. But if I'm already experiencing this much change after 2 weeks, I look forward to the rest of the journey.
Thanks for your thoughtful blogs. They've inspired me over the years, and really were a playing factor in my Lenten fast this year.

Ken Haynes said...

Great post...thank you for your challenging transparency and honesty. My materialism is so intertwined with my "willfullness".

There are so many things for me to faithfully live in tension with.

- Faithfully rooting materialism out of my life on a daily basis-realizing that I am not where I want to be.

- I too quickly move from surfacing my own being concerned about my evaluation of it in others

- I live in a culture that too quickly evaluates "good" based on economic success/having and money giving me the ability to make choices.

-Because it is so easy to be judgmental with others...I find that disciples of Christ struggle with holding each other accountable with respect to this...often letting each other lives that are more spiritually unhealthy than they should be.

We hate to talk about this stuff....

Thanks bro...

Anonymous said...

You can never get enough of what you don't need to make you happy - Eric Hoffer

I saw my face in all of the comments expressed here. I was once so consumed by consumption that I eventually left the world (metaphorically) so I could become a better part of it.

I always aspired to losing my desire for things that held me hostage. So after much reading, discussion and contemplation, I arrived at what "enough" meant for me. And over time, I flipped the model I was operating under, from consuming to creating.

I no longer own 3,000+ books and 12 pairs of black pants to go with my 14 pairs of black shoes. (awful to write, "awfuler" to live). My body is no longer festooned with every conceivable electronic device; I run a PII laptop, my cell phone is as big as a brick. And I'm stupidly happy.

I now think first of what I can give instead of take, how I can reuse instead of add to, and whether or not an object or activity is even consistent with my mission and vision. Talk about clarity. And there's something powerful about being able to walk through Neiman's or Target or any online store and appreciate but not be consumed by what I see. Most of all, I usually don't even desire "it".

Without all my former precoccuptions, I'm now a much better partner, friend and citizen. I'm no longer covered up by wanting, but able to be present to the other person, just by being. I've been amazed at how much more attentive I am to everything now that all that clutter is cleared away.

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. -- William Morris, designer

Paul said...

Yes. Guilty.

cierakae said...


Can you say 2-car garage filled to the point that sometimes it's easier to go out and buy "it" -than try to find "it"?

I've always lived below my means, little afraid of debt. Never been one to crave the latest and greatest, I'm still hostage to my posessions.

Remember a DMN interview with a homeless man years ago. He was quoted as saying sometimes he feels closer to God than those "in the main stream " because there's less to come between him and his relationship with the Lord.

Wise man.

cierakae said...


Love the truck!


Anonymous said...

For all of us with too much, here's some ways to help find new homes for unnneeded things:


Whatever cash
you get for your goods,
give with glee
to Central Dallas