I have been thinking about shopping lately, especially as the holiday advertising campaigns have begun in earnest. The madness that is Black Friday is fresh in my mind. I happen to think it’s an ugly development in our culture.
Why do we care so much about buying stuff? Like most Americans, I am a consumer–but I am not proud of it. I try to resist, but I think that materialism surrounds us like water surrounds a fish. We don’t even recognize it anymore. We weren’t created for this.
And I especially don’t understand status goods. You know, the names that make stuff fashionable and significant—Hermes, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Lexus, BMW, Tiffany. It’s not like I don’t recognize good design or quality. But it’s naïve to think that owning them will change my life. Yet that’s the message we get from advertising, which has become so sophisticated that it is sinister.
I can assure you: After the glow of owning an expensive purse or raincoat or wristwatch wears off, it’s just a purse or a raincoat or wristwatch. And you are still you, trudging through slush. Your life will not change, except that you will be more in debt to a credit card company.
What gives you peace of mind?
Owning things–even beautiful things–will not give you peace of mind. Consumer goods will not prevent the loss of people you love. New stuff will not shield you from feeling not good enough or attractive enough or successful enough.
What will give you peace of mind? I think you know: Love. Faith in something or Someone bigger than you. Making a difference by helping others. Doing something you really believe in and spending quality time with people you love. Having experiences that open your mind, your imagination and your heart.
It’s the beginning of Advent, a season of reflection and silence and preparation and hope. But the message we encounter all around us—at the mall, on TV, the web, and radio, is buy buy buy. We will see commercials with happy families feasting over bountiful tables and elegant women opening tiny jewelry boxes by the fireplace. It might make us feel that we are missing out, that this is the Christmas we should have.
It is fiction.
Kate Elliott was editor of Gather magazine. This Throwback Thursday blog first ran in December 2013. One gift that will make a lasting impression is a subscription to Gather magazine. Won’t you give a subscription to someone you love today?