Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Itching to buy

The dog, who has been better lately, woke us at 4:15 this morning with his scratching. I'm thinking that it's a response to the sunrise coupled with a hungry tummy and a hope that food might be on the horizon.  At any rate, my husband got up and gave him a benadryl and then headed off to work.

I tried to sleep, but for some reason financial worries won out and I found myself lying there agonizing over money: how long will it hold out, and what will we do about the several large expenses looming on the horizon?

This anxiety has been hovering in the background, of course, ever since my husband lost his job 3 years ago, but it ebbs and flows; I guess today was a day for flow.  But it's complicated by my continuing urges to buy.

I'm mostly doing well -- I've always been a fairly thrifty consumer -- but some imp in me is itching to have one last financial hurrah before the money runs out.  Which is not only irrational, but also cause for some spiritual concern.  Why this urge to possess?  And why now?  What am I really hungry for? And it's not just purses and boots, it's also food; I'm in a hungry-for-junk-food mood as well...

... so it comes as no surprise that today's reading in Alan Jones' Soul Making has something to say to me.  Interestingly enough, given that this book was published over 20 years ago, he's quoting Rowan Williams, the current but about-to-retire Archbishop of Canterbury; from a book entitled The Truce of God.

"The impure heart is a heart which never wants anything enough to be intolerant of substitutes.  Beneath its readiness to make do with less than reality is the fear of real desire.  For real desire means the candid acknowledgement that I am incomplete and need something in order to be real myself.  Impure desire, on the other hand, assumes that I am solid and important: I take things to myself as my fancies suggest, as much as I want of this or that, so as to keep myself solid and steady.  I consume things -- to stop myself being consumed by real desire, which shows me my lack of solidity, my need to find and nourish my identity in and with others.

Pure desire is desire that longs to grow endlessly in knowledge of and rootedness in reality and truth.  Impure desire desires to stop having to desire, to stop needing; it asks for a state where, finally, the ego can relax into self-sufficiency and does not have to go stuffing bits and pieces of the world into itself in order to survive.  Real desire can live with an unlimited horizon -- which religious people call God -- while unreal desire stumbles from moment to moment trying to gratify an immediate hunger, without accepting that "hunger" is part of being human and so cannot be dealt with or understood by an endless succession of leakplugging operations."

I was particularly struck by the second sentence in the second paragraph, about the need to stop wanting; the hope that by purchasing or eating "just this one thing," that the hunger will be somehow permanently assuaged and trouble me no more.

Ouch.  Been there, done that, have a closet full of t-shirts...

Time for some corrective action, I think; time to notice those hungers, time to see them for what they are -- a need to feed an unhealthy ego -- and time to somehow transform that small hunger into a greater understanding of the larger Hunger at its root.  Because snack food and possessions, however carefully monitored, are functioning sort of like a spiritual benadryl.  There's a temporary relief, but four hours later the itch to consume is back...

(Note: these beautiful purses were seen in a shop window in San Gimignano, Italy, in 2008.  And no, I didn't buy one; I was content to merely admire...)

1 comment:

Kimberly Mason said...

My "things" have been weighing heavy on my mind since I have started to take seriously the vow of poverty I intend to undertake.

While I realize that this vow is not the same as a Franciscan vow of owning no thing, still, if I am to take idea seriously, then I need to seriously rethink my way of spending and my desire to own more.

I bought my Nike son a pair of shoes the other day. The boy owns 50 or more pairs already (he works for them, he gets a discount ... still!). I wondered then if I was loving him with a gift or attempting to buy his love. I knew the answer, but I ignored it.

"... stuffing bits and pieces of the world into itself ..." wow. Heavy stuff!!