My son has reached the “I want” stage where everything he sees, he wants, even if he doesn’t understand what it does or why he wants it. He will walk in and spout off a commercial, down to the really difficult words. I’m working on at least getting him to understand commercialism and how he doesn’t have to have everything he sees. He pouts, he cries, he whines…I say “no” a lot. I also ask him why he wants whatever commercial he is currently quoting. His responses range from “because it’s awesome!” to “I don’t know,” and everything in between. Most of the time, I don’t even think it’s about him wanting something, it’s about acquiring it. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a generous soul. If someone wants what he has, with the exception of a few things, he’ll readily give them away, always has. He shares without having to be asked, even gives away things he has come to value in his five-year-old mind. This blog isn’t about the dangers of commercialism or the evils of consumerism either, it’s about an inherent need we seem to have.
I’m not saying the need to acquire is bad. It’s in our nature, just as every other creature on the planet has an inherent need to acquire. Crows and magpies gather shiny things, not because it has anything to do with survival, but because extra bling attracts mates. It seems, no matter what species, females like pretty things…but I digress. The reason I’m bringing it up at all is because more and more, I’m seeing the need to acquire focusing on something else: envy. Envy is the need to acquire’s little sister. Again, I’m not saying envy is bad either. Envy can do good things. It can increase drive, increase efficiency, increase performance. When you have something you want, you will not be complacent about it. You won’t sit back and wait if you know how you can acquire what you want.
Lately, though, I’ve seen the uglier side of envy, the side that has people pining for things they can’t have, the side that people show to other human beings that they deem successful. Envy can make a rational person bitter and angry. It can take that need to acquire to a whole new level. We throw adult tantrums when we can’t have what we want. People kill other humans over stupid things like ink printed on cheap cardstock. A friend of mine was killed over his Magic cards, and I don’t know which one was more foolish, the guy willing to kill to get a bunch of cards, or my friend, who was willing to be, and was, killed for them. How messed up is it that?
Again, don’t get me wrong, I like my things, but am I willing to die for them? No. If someone came to me holding a gun to my head and said he wanted all my things, he could have them. Now, for threatening me, he might be in a world of hurt, but my life and my family’s lives are much more important than things. Things can be replaced. People, love, trust, safety, connections, those cannot be replaced.
If I wanted to summarize what my entire diatribe today is about, I would have to say, “Stuff is just stuff. Don’t value it more than what really matters.”