Saturday, April 25, 2015

I Don't Need It, But I Want It.

" A Wilderness Path" 
- Outside the Desert Retreat House -

Yesterday the long-awaited "Apple Watch" made its way into the retail stores. If you have at least $400 to spend (up to as much as $17,000 for the gold-plated edition) you can equip your wrist with a watch that essentially functions as a mini Apple computer. You can watch movies on your wrist, browse the web, an endless flow of emails at your constant beck-and-call, instant access to your phone. 

Personally, I can't imagine anything I might desire "less" than to have a computer constantly strapped to my wrist - my life is already far too consumed with constant contact with my electronic devices; but this is certainly not true for lots of other people. The lines outside Apple Stores across the country weaved around the block yesterday as people waited anxiously to purchase their brand new watch - some even slept overnight to be the first in line.

The evening news report last evening featured an interview with one of the people who had been waiting in those long lines to purchase his long expected computer wristwatch. He was asked why he was willing to wait for hours for this device - the reporter asked: "Do you need this watch that badly?" The young man's response spoke volumes:

I don't need it but I want it.

As I listend to that interview it struck me that perhaps that man's response has become the new motto for today's consumerist culture, where immediate gratification seems to be the order of the day: I don't need it, but I want it.

As I heard this comment on the news yesterday, my life sort of flashed before me. I remembered a few years ago as we prepared to leave Los Angeles and move out to our home in the desert. We had so much "stuff" in boxes throughout our house that we literally couldn't even give it all away as we downsized our life to move out to our smaller desert residence. There were unopened boxes of dishes and plates, clothes that had been hardly used and shoes barely worn, books and magazines barely cracked open, old computers, TV's and video games - how was it possible that we could have accumulated so much stuff over the past 30 years or more? 

What we couldn't sell we gave way and what we couldn't give away we had hauled away in a big truck.

I think of something the Psychiatrist, Eric Fromm, once said about how "greed" is so insidious and so infectious to the human spirit:

Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort
to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.

I wonder if this definition of greed is another way of saying: I don't need it, but I want it.

My life nowadays is much simpler. In fact the simplicity of my life has been an important factor influencing the way I walk the spiritual path.  I try to live it with a lot less clutter in my mind and more room in my heart. I still have plenty of books and do lots of reading and studying but there is much less thinking that goes on in me nowadays and a lot more listening:

Many generations ago the mystic philosopher, Meister Eckhart, observed:

God is not found by adding but by a process of subtraction.

I actually have come to believe that the farther I go on the spiritual path, the less baggage is necessary or even desired - that's why the desert is such a wonderful icon of the spiritual journey. It's way too hot out here and the terrain is far too tough to carry all sorts of equipment with you when you walk in the wilderness. You have to travel lightly - and so it is on the spiritual path.

Maybe that's why Jesus admonished his disciples who were about to go out onto the road to advance the mission of the kingdom of God:

Take nothing for the journey - no staff, no bag, no money, no extra shirt

Sounds like wise advice to me. 

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