I don't aspire to poverty or deprivation or asceticism. But I do think that I am easily fooled into believing that the short term pleasures brought by more-than-enough material things will translate into longer-term happiness. (In fact, I wrote about materialism versus happiness just the other day).
The tragedy of this confusion is that it can lead both to the waste of planetary resources and of a life spent chasing after things I can't take to the grave. (By the way, I recently came across a blog entitled How Can I Best Spend My Time on This Earth? It's new, and there isn't yet much written on it, but lots of points just for the question. To me and my sometimes melancholy constitution, the question is perennial.)
What I wanted to send out into the blogosphere today was a quote--and I don't mean to sound pious--from Mother Theresa, left behind in the comments section of this blog by a regular reader from India named Uma. The quote comes from an interview in Time. With the repeated caveat that I am, for myself, an advocate of neither asceticism nor rampant materialism, here it is:
Q: Is materialism in the West an equally serious problem?
A: I don't know. I have so many things to think about. Take our congregation: we have very little, so we have nothing to be preoccupied with. The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have, the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not a mortification, a penance. It is joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, no that. This is the only fan in the whole house. It doesn't matter how hot it is, and it is for the guests. But we are perfectly happy.
Q: How do you find rich people then?
A: I find the rich much poorer. Sometimes they are more lonely inside. They are never satisfied. They always need something more. I don't say all of them are like that. Everybody is not the same. I find that poverty hard to remove. The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.