Living in the Material(istic) World

It’s no secret that we live this life in a material/physical world.  Our consciousnesses are tethered to solid bodies, we’re subject to intractable laws of physics, we have a whole spectrum of various material/physical needs that we can’t really ignore for very long (oxygen, water, and food are just the starters on the list…)…and in our current “modern” times, we tend to take things even further than that.  We prize materialism.  Some would go so far as to say materialism is kind of like a religion for us in many nations.

Services at certain houses of worship...
Services at certain houses of worship…

Is this necessarily a bad thing?  Well…I personally feel that if you take it so far that your time and energy spent at the altar of the material starts to eclipse your cultivation of things such as the emotional, the mental, and the spiritual…then yes, I’d say you’re working to your own detriment, and in the long run, if you keep up that kind of lopsided focus, you’ll do yourself harm.  Rampant materialism can get pretty toxic.  You can’t subsist well and in continued good health on a diet made up only of sugar, or of just spice, or of any one specific kind of foodstuff, and you likewise can’t thrive if the only intangible doctrine you devote yourself to is materialism.  You can try, and to some extent, money will keep you warm at night — at least for a while, and in literal terms — but over time, you’ll wither.

What happens to us on a diet that consists solely of materialism...
What happens to us on a diet that consists solely of materialism…

So why am I droning on about ideas that everyone pretty much already knows…?

Well, for one thing, I don’t think the occasional reminder is a horrible thing.  We all tend to get sucked into the rhythms of our everyday lives, and we can forget some of the bigger lessons, even if they’re obvious, and even though they do get flagged for our attentions on a semi-regular basis.  So here you go: a fresh reminder!

But for another, more personal reason, my mind is on this principle this weekend.  See, I went out to an underground party with some friends on Friday night.  We stayed up late, and got into the revelry, as we’d all been cooped up of late in various states of self-imposed hermit-hood.  It was fun, and I needed to break out of my own rut, if even just for one night.   As the wee hours of the morning started to scroll by, it got to be time to start gearing up for departure.  We said our goodbyes to the remaining party people, and exited the venue, but when I arrived at my car, I was greeted with a scene that looked something like this:

This is not my car -- I failed to take a photo of my own crime scene -- but this is the essence of what confronted me...
This is not my car — I failed to take a photo of my own crime scene — but this is the essence of what confronted me…

I lost not only a perfectly fine window to whichever party or parties had violated the sanctity of my little rolling extension of “home,” as I always thought of my car, but they also got a rather new GPS device, and weirdly enough, they broke a pair of sunglasses I’d left in the glove compartment and left them behind…but they made off with the case that the sunglasses had been housed in.  Huh…??!

So here’s where I’m confronted with materialistic concerns.  Money.  Fixing the window costs money.  Replacing the GPS device costs money.  Fixing my sunglasses or buying a new pair costs money.  Dealing with my insurance company involves a focus on money, or there’s the option of sidestepping them entirely, as my deductible will be nearly as high as the costs I’d be obliged to eat should I just pay for everything myself, and the latter course is much faster…but it, too, involves money.

But here’s the interesting thing: as much as I would have preferred that none of this had happened in the first place, I’ve been surprised to find a decided lack of anger in my response to all of it, and no real feelings of true violation.  I mean, I was violated, or at least a valuable possession of mine was, but psychologically, emotionally, I don’t find myself feeling that way.  Even when I was first discovering and processing the small crime, I didn’t feel all that outraged, and especially now, on the other side of a long night’s sleep, it just seems surreal.  I’m not angry, and I’m not vengeful.  I have, however, been returning to a different kind of thought: It could have been worse

Aaahhh...  A cool half-glass of optimism!
Aaahhh… A cool half-glass of optimism!

And not to get all preachy or self-congratulatory here — it’s not like I made a conscious decision to turn my back on feelings of anger that I was experiencing.  Rather, I just didn’t experience those kinds of feelings much at all in the first place.  So it’s not like I’m trying to say “Look at how enlightened and evolved I am, everyone!”  I think this is more a case of me writing about this in order to help myself remember it better as I move forward, so that I can maintain only a healthy attachment to the material, and not allow that attachment to grow to more harmful levels.

It could have been worse…  If the timing of my return to my car had been different, I could have encountered the responsible party or parties during the actual commission of the act…which could have led to violence.  I might have been hurt, perhaps badly.  If my friends were with me, they, too, might have been hurt, or worse.  Another possibility: I might have been forced to hurt the perpetrator(s), and I’m a pretty non-violent person, so even winning a brawl would disturb me deeply.  And the offender(s) could have done a lot more damage to my car, or even stolen it outright.  It could have been worse!!

So I’ll be out a few bucks no matter what course of action I take, but thankfully, not to an extent that will break me.  Life is good, and loss of a few material things and a few dollars is also a chance to gain in other ways (knowledge, emotional health, mental strength, spiritual well-being).  So my hope is that by posting this, the lessons I’ve been faced with will sink in more deeply and in more long-lasting ways, and maybe will even help someone else out there reading this.  Lessons: 1) Don’t leave your car unattended all night long in the bad part of town, of course, is not a bad one…but also, 2) Don’t cling too intensely to the material.  Spare some focus for the immaterial as well, and life will be that much more grand.  I may have lost my GPS device, but I’m happy to find that I still seem to be able to stay on the path, and that’s helped make my weekend a good one despite what might have been a big setback…

Still on the path...
Still on the path…

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