My experiences on a mission trip to Haiti (2001), gave me a whole new perspective on the ideals of materialism, along with the value systems that are unconsciously adopted, when we define our lives through the collection, and possession, of things .
Material belongings can bring us great pleasure; they’re usually acquired to enhance our earthly existence with certain necessities and creature comforts, without which, we are likely to be dissatisfied with our day to day living conditions. The dissatisfaction we experience when we believe that we ‘just don’t have enough’, can often lead to an outlook of poverty consciousness. We develop the belief that we are destined to remain poor, and therefore, there is no point in nurturing a healthy attitude of success, an attitude which ordinarily keeps us striving to gain more material resources and belongings. In worst case scenarios, we end up living in survival mode, a lifestyle that is focused primarily on meeting our own basic needs to survive. When we’re living in survival mode, we’re more likely to compromise our personal value systems and baseline moral codes. We justify our transgressions by claiming that we must do whatever it takes to get the material things we need to stay alive. While in survival mode, we live in a world of limitations, instead of possibilities. Possessiveness, greed, selfishness and hunger become the motivating drives that color our daily experiences. When the instinct for survival overrides our natural human compassion, we tend to view others as tools to be used in the struggle to meet our basic needs. If our neighbor has more things than us, we might choose to believe that there are less things in the world for Us to possess. Personally, I choose to live in a world of abundance, where there is always enough of everything for everyone. Therefore, I find that it can be a spiritually healthy practice to take regular inventory of my attachment level to the material belongings I’ve collected. I ask myself the following – Do these material belongings define my lifestyle, and furthermore my intrinsic self-worth? Am I attached to, or identifying with these material possessions? Or alternatively, am I living a life defined by a value system which places more emphasis on meaningful connections and purposeful human experiences than it does on the ownership of things? What I’ve discovered is that material possessions do not define the man I am, unless I allow that definition to become my truth. I can choose to love myself, regardless of the current inventory of my material belongings. These inner discoveries have offered me the freedom to receive and release (external) material things, including my own artistic creations, without feeling that I am less of, or more of, my Self in the process.
The Earths natural environment provides a home to an incredible abundance of life. The depth and complexity of the natural system on Earth far exceeds our capacity to understand and appreciate our dependence upon it. Human ownership of the natural world seems absurdly unnatural to me. How can we hope to possess a living thing, if we can’t even fathom what keeps it alive. We must come to a better understanding of the system and our place within it, if we are to secure a future for human beings on Earth.