“ ‘Look at the birds of the air,’ Jesus said to the crowds gathered around him (Matt. 6:26). I’ve been looking at the birds lately, and it strikes me that today our lives are more akin to the frantic scurrying of rats and the disciplined marching of ants than to the contented and joyous singing of birds. In some regards, we humans are more like rats and ants than like birds. But there’s more to today’s dearth of contentment and joy than just the elements of human nature. Cultures of postindustrial societies encourage and reward scurrying and marching more than they do rejoicing. They reach into what seems like the most intimate regions of our hearts, and by affecting our desires and our sense of responsibility, they disturb the peace of contentment and suppress the buoyancy of joy. …’The eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing,’ writes the author of Ecclesiastes (1:7–8), describing the ancient experience of insatiability. We are finite, but our desire is infinite, limited, it seems, mainly by our need for rest. Insatiability is a human condition—but one that the modern market economy magnifies. According to Kenneth Galbraith, the modern market doesn’t so much respond to existing needs by supplying goods, but rather “creates the wants the goods are presumed to satisfy.” Desire, hunger, and dissatisfaction are the market economy’s fuel. The more fuel it has, the faster it can run, and so it creates the void it seeks to fill. The result is a rushing stream of both amazing and not-so-amazing goods and services—along with a perpetual lack of contentment and diminished capacity for joy. The relation between joy and contentment at any given moment is straightforward: the less content you are, the less joy you will have (though discontentment often precedes joy). Joy celebrates the goodness of what is, what was, or is to come; the market economy fuels insatiability and malcontent, systematically erodes the goodness of what is, and cripples joy.”
“I have learned how to be content
with whatever I have.”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Do you often find yourself “scurrying?” Does scurrying seem normal or good?
- Are you an “insatiable” consumer? If so, why?
- Can you recognize and reject artificially created “needs?”
- Are you willing to be a person who has less than others? …who is “learning” to be content?
Abba, In my work, may I be motivated, not by anxiety or greed or ego, but by gratitude and the desire to lovingly serve you and others.
For More: The Living God and the Fullness of Life by Miroslav Volf
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God after you. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“It is not unheard of for us to chafe at our neediness. Having to ask for help is an admission that we can’t do this on our own, that we are not in control. There is something in us … that would prefer never to have to ask for help. Consumerism is a narcotic that dulls the awareness that we are in need. By buying what we need, we assume control of our lives. We replace a sense of need with a sense of ownership, and our sense of neediness recedes. Technology is a narcotic. It depersonalizes needs to something that can be handled by a machine or a device. We replace a sense of need by the satisfaction of being in control: ‘I will manage my own needs, thank you.’ Money and machines anaesthetize neediness. They put us in charge, in control. As long as the money holds out and the machines are in good repair, we don’t have to pray. But there is a steep price to pay. Narcotics diminish the capacity for personal relationships. Narcotics dull and finally destroy the capacity for living, feeling, loving, enjoying. And praying. When we choose to live with a diminished sense of the limits imposed by our basic neediness, we falsify our place in the intricate and marvelous goodness of our creation, what the psalmists celebrate as the ‘land of the living.’ A refusal to work within limits is a stubborn, rebellious refusal to receive life as a gift. Needs are not limitations that interfere with or refuse or flatten our lives. Needs prepare us for a life of receptivity, a readiness to receive what can only be received as gift. Needs open the door into this vast giving-receiving ecological intricacy of sky and sea, clover and bee, man and wife, horse and carriage. Needs don’t reduce us to ‘mere’ creatures; they provide the conditions in which we are able to live in reciprocal relation with wildflowers and woodpeckers, with sons and daughters, with parents and grandparents. The limitations inherent in need prevent us from illusions of grandeur and the isolations of selfish pride. …Limits don’t limit us from being fully human. They only limit us from being God.” Eugene Peterson
“He himself gives life and breath to everything,
and he satisfies every need.”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Would you rather do it yourself without any help from anyone? If so, why?
- Do you use consumerism or technology to avoid neediness?
- What is to be lost in denying neediness? …gained in embracing it?
Abba, help me take my rightful place in this world, experiencing the great ecology of the land of the living.
For More: Tell It Slant by Eugene Peterson
Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill
“We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.” Merton
“You cannot control your own population by force, but it can be distracted by consumption.” Noam Chomsky
“Advertising treats all products with the reverence and the seriousness due to sacraments.” Thomas Merton
“Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you”
Bob Dylan, “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”
“I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
“Then [Jesus] said to them,
‘Watch out! Be on your guard
against all kinds of greed;
life does not consist
in an abundance of possessions.’”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- To what degree are you “distracted” by consumption? Do you passively embrace the advertizing?
- Has marketing captivated and mesmerized your ego, deceiving and manipulating you while “life outside goes on all around you?”
- Are you on guard against the temptation to embrace the idea that life consists “in an abundance of possessions?” What are you doing to live more simply?
Abba, help me see through the illusions of my day, through all the artificial complexity, to the true simplicity on the other side.
For More: The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”