1. wealth, riches, or affluence.
2. abundance, as of resources or goods; plenty.
It’s a little self accusatory to talk about the stimulation for my thinking about opulence. Because my thoughts have come from things that I really only would come across from belonging to a society and position that is one of the richest in the world.
So in relating to you, lets assume you are a computer owner (which means you’ve got some excess) I’ll also throw a few movie reviews as no doubt you have a spare $15 for a day you ‘have to go the movies to escape the heat’. In this way you not only get something to think about, but you also get something to add to your ‘eventual entertainment’ list. I also get to make my point and so as a result, we both win – regardless of whether you really care about hearing someone else rant on about affluence, western world riches etc.
Shall I go on?
I feel bad when I shop. This isn’t about looking ‘fat’ in the changing room mirrors but about being totally unsure where to draw the line as to what I buy. Ideally I buy something when I need something. I also know that I have enough – despite my bank balance not being fully recovered since Christmas (what’s that meant to mean anyway) – to occasionally if not often, buy something when I want it especially if I can justify that there is a ‘good use’ for it.
I have a lot. The more I look at it the more guilty I feel when I wind up in commercial land. I am not a splurger in fact I’m pretty stingy.
I own a computer, a cd-player, a bed, a chair, a printer, a car, a fair bit of music and quite a few dvd’s. I’ve always had enough to eat. I always had somewhere to sleep. That’s a lot.
There is a lot and there are also a lot of people with a lot. And yet we still seem to be so dissatisfied.
You probably know the story of Midas. That’s the king where everything he touched turned to gold. For the life of me I can’t remember how the story ends but I’ve been
thinking about it after listening to Faust, Midas, and Myself (Switchfoot).
” You could have your pick
Of pretty things.
You could have it all
Everything at once.
Everything you’ve seen,
Everything you’ll need”
So there’s wanting.
Along with the wanting, which as Christians we seem to condemn a fair bit with our ‘do not covet’ etceras, there is having.
What have we already got? In some ways it all ties together. We shouldn’t go for ‘extra’ because we’ve already got so much. But then often if we have it in the first place – it’s okay.
The status quo and the normal is okay. I was thinking a bit about this while I was watching The Queen. The monarchy is a traditional thing and although I (and others) really don’t agree with the system, it remains. It is okay that we esteem any well above the rest, whatever position of leadership they hold? Take this beyond the royal family – because we are all in some place to blame doing the same.
The monarchy and the country (regardless of which one) is a decent parallel of the world. The rich, the poor. You’ve read the stats, it’s nothing new.
I may have simply been further outraged by reading an Adbusters magazine (thanks Analise) but the combination of that and walking into Marie Antoinette was fairly potent. (Excellent film by the way, quite different to other period pieces – Sofia Coppola of Lost in Translation has created something quite unique. Typically it was quite slow moving but had a glorious collection of colour, costume, a weird inclusion of modern music and a depicted a profound sense of affluence and aloneness. That’s the review btw!)
As French Aristocracy she has everything and more. She spends more. She wastes more. She wants more. She spends her day discussing more.
I really struggle to understand how people can have so much excess. I don’t understand the buy-buy-buy phenomenon and at the same time I am oh-so familiar with it.
We find it so easy to point the finger. We somehow get all excited when we see people (okay, like Princess Diana) with a lot doing so much ‘good’ with their money. We (being ‘less affluent’) aren’t compelled on the same level to do the same.
“They have lots, so they can give so much more!”
Or perhaps even… I have a sponsor child so we’re least doing something and then we wash our hands of further responsibility.
I still have no good idea of how I should shop. I’d lean with the ‘doing the social justice’ thing in a way that is practical and doable (in reality, a way that is still somewhat easy) – but is that how we should be looking at it?
Geoff has been looking at ‘Dismantling The Empire’ and his current post (nice how it all ties in really) is on financial security.
The passage quoted is Matthew 6.
The theme for Junior camp also came from this passage. I struggled somewhat in leading some of the studies/quiet times in working out how I could stress just how unimportant ‘earthly treasures’ are, particularly when friends and family were listed off. Explaining something so radically different to kids is somewhat difficult when in your own mind you have to explain it theologically. I don’t think I succeeded even remotely.
None of this is easy. I don’t think it was meant to be easy. Following Jesus (which although the justice stuff all seems to tie in, is in fact of greater importance than the nuances of what you do and don’t give) isn’t easy.
Opulence reflects selfishness – be it conscious, subconscious or semi-conscious.
So now that you and I are at least ‘semi-conscious’, what can we do about it? Like it or not, we are somewhat stuck on the opulent side of the world in an culture fat on consumerism – what can we do about that? Deny ourselves of everything?
How much can we offload onto having the right ‘heart attitude’ *gag* about giving and how much should we really actually be putting into practice?