the noise of consumerism

August 4, 2005

Apologies to those of you who might read both, but this is a crosspost from the Pathways Blog.

Last night, at our home gathering, we watched Nooma#5: Noise. This led us to a pretty extensive discussion about the unhealthy pace of our culture. There is no way I can share all of the insights that were raised, but I thought I’d share a few of the thoughts that I have reflected on as a result of the discussion.

It seems that much, if not all, of our nonstop pace is driven by our consumer culture. We are always wanting more, so we need to keep going in order to get it. The thought of slowing down to just reflect or rest is often troubling to us. When we do rest our bodies, we seldom rest our minds. Instead we just occupy them with elsewhere, whisking them away into another world through music or TV. There is nothing inherently wrong with either of these things, but there is something wrong when we do whatever we can to keep our minds occupied all the time. I think this speaks to a much deeper issue of consumerism. It is more than what we see on the surface. It is more than just an ongoing desire to get more.

I think we run from silence, and our thoughts, because often we don’t want to deal with them. Perhaps the reason we most fear silence is that our disatisfaction with our life will scream to us from the silence. We are forced to hear the things we don’t want to hear. When we buy into the lie of consumerism, we buy into a system that, by design, never satisfies us. Pepsi convinces us not to buy one Pepsi that will be the ultimate and final refreshing beverage. They market it to us, instead, so that we will be perpetual Pepsi drinkers — always needing more. That’s the simple version of it. The very nature of a consumer culture is that it is not meant to satisfy.

The challenge of following Jesus is one of pursing a full life. We explore his teachings to see if what he says is really true. Is there really more satisfaction in giving than in getting? I propose that none of us will know for sure until we experience that way of living for ourselves. And you can start, and I can start, by sitting in stillness and hearing his gentle whisper speak the truth to us.

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