Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Living in the material world

Colin Beavan, over at No Impact Man, has this post about his coffee date with Juliet Schor, whose work includes Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure. He asks Schor if Americans are too materialist, and she replies that the problem stems rather from our not being materialist enough--in other words, we don't pay enough attention to the material right in front of us, and hence misuse it and throw it away, whether it be (and here I'm embroidering) in the form of consumer goods or people.

I think she's right on the money. The false dichotomy between spiritual and material is responsible for at some of the worst excesses in our society. As I said in my comments on the post, to value spiritual values over material values leads rather quickly to, for example, the James Watt apocalyptic view of creation, where depredation doesn't matter because the rapture's coming soon anyway. Yet the spiritual traditions that we commonly think of as being most least materialist are all about giving material its proper weight, neither too much nor too little. Chop wood, carry water. In Christian terms, if the spiritual is all that matters, why bother giving God a body?

By the way, the last time I wrote about Beavan, I was rather uncharitable. I've been following his blog now for several months, and I think he's the real deal.

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