Wednesday, August 18, 2010

trivial pursuit

This has been in the back of my mind for awhile now - you know those conversations you have with yourself when you're alone and doing something routine and mundane, like taking a shower? No? Well, maybe I'm the only one who holds lengthy conversations with myself. And then talks to myself about having conversations with myself. least I'm not *completely* nutty, because if I'm in the shower at least Woodstock (ala Peanuts) is in there with me, listening to my conversations. Assuming he reads minds. Hey, if a perfect likeness of the famed cartoon bird can perch on the ceiling of my shower, anything is possible.

Moving on! I think about this a lot. There's so much in this world that we seem to be constantly striving for. We want to look perfect, to have the right possessions, the right careers, live in the right neighborhoods. We like to be witty with our friends, adorn our children with the "in" look, make sure they grow up to become doctors and lawyers and successes. But does it really matter? I don't know how it is that we all got to feeling so incredibly self-important. There are close to seven BILLION of us humans out there these days, and that's only the live ones. We stress and stress over the silliest things in our daily lives, because it seems so significant at the time. But is it really?

You grow up hearing phrases like, "Make a good first impression." Okay, so you wear the perfect clothes, the perfect shoes, spend hours getting hair and makeup just so. You want everything to make that great impression. But so what? What if you didn't? I think we tend to focus on what's immediately in front of us and not the bigger picture. If you don't hit it off with that first guy, or get that job, or make a good friend, or even a good decision, life doesn't end. Whether you want it to or not, 6,999,999,999 of the rest of us move on and never even noticed you were out there, perfect or imperfect. I'm not saying, "Why bother?" but I am saying, "Why does it matter so much?" Why do we place SO much importance on material aspects?

I think two of the biggest evils in today's society are television and lines of credit. I'm not suggesting that I'm going to head out with my pitchfork looking for witches, but think about it! Many many people are very vested in television shows. I'm not anti-tv; there are some things out there I genuinely enjoy. I don't even mind my kids watching some of the God-awful cartoons. BUT, tv shows make us want. Of course there are the commercials which are nothing but solid ads for all the things you *could* have, but I'm talking about the shows themselves. We want the items we see our favorite characters enjoy. We want the lifestyles we see them have. We especially want that artificial humor, or closeness, or fun that we witness those tv families going through. We see extravagance and it seems so grand - huge homes where kids don't share rooms (or do share rooms and always get along - ha!), the newest and best gadgets, fancy cars. Big parties, photo shoots, jewelry. Even things like breakfast in bed and a cute card and necklace on Mother's Day. We actually feel disappointed when we don't get those things. Personally I can remember feeling cheated when I didn't "get" a baby shower when I was pregnant with Ibis. How many episodes of A Baby Story can a pregnant woman watch and then not expect a beautiful, picture-perfect baby shower, dangit! On some level at some point we have to realize that isn't real life.

Then we have lines of credit. Credit (especially credit cards) allow people to live beyond their means. We've been credit-card-free for over 5 years now and sometimes that's the hardest thing in the world; you see something you want and you know everybody else and his brother would just go and put it on a credit card and be done with it, but you can't. It is a VERY difficult impulse to resist - that's why you can't have a card "just for emergencies." Unfortunately we do have 2 car loans that I wish we didn't rely on, but we made a compromise and bought used but decent vehicles. We did opt to continue paying on my car and add a third row seat rather than purchase something newer and bigger after Hobie was born; that was a sound financial decision for us. We will also eventually get a mortgage on a house rather than pay fully in cash, and we are okay with that. But we have said no way to credit cards!

Here's why I think credit cards are bad news for everyone involved. It does let you live beyond your means - if you use one like most people, and like we used to, you're buying things that you wouldn't be able to afford with the cash you have on hand. Imagine for one moment if nobody had credit cards - we'd all stop buying things that weren't essentials (or some of us would forego the essentials for awhile, but eventually when you were trying to eat your PlayStation games you'd probably come around!) Instead of all buying everything *brand new* people would be forced to buy things that were within their actual means. The life of a (insert electronic device, etc. here) would be much longer. Instead of owning an iPhone and then an iPad and then an iWhateverComesNext all within a the span of a year, most people would have to settle for one thing. This crazy out of control throw it away when something better comes along consumerism would come to a grinding halt and maybe the whole world wouldn't be such a disaster! I'm not especially "green" and don't claim to be or even really want to be, but it does bother me that as a whole we are all so into self-importance and gimme gimme gotta have its that all of our morality sometimes goes right out the window.

And you know what's really funny? I don't even take long showers! I think Woodstock is getting to me....

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