On Saturday, I had coffee with Boston College Professor Juliet Schor, author of Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture and co-founder of the Center for a New American Dream.
We were talking about throwaway products and the disposable culture which fuel our economy and trash our resources (and which I recently wrote about here). I asked her if she thought part of the problem is that we have become too material and not sufficiently spiritual? Was that why she thought we consumed so rampantly that it strained the planet's ability to sustain our health, happiness and security?
"It's a false dichotomy," she said. "It's not that we're too material but that we see materialism as separate from spirituality." Our mistake is in not embracing the fact that the material is the manifestation of the divine, and that we therefore treat the material as something to be wasted and thrown away.
When you look at it that way, we need to be more rather than less material. We need to see the intrinsic value inherent in material resources. "If we treated the material as sacred," she said, "we might become more spiritual about the way we consume and that might help us solve some of our problems."