Black Friday therapy

Surplus is an odd word, especially since most of the world endures inadequate conditions. But our stores are jammed with toys and clothing and cars and food. As far as we know, it's like that everywhere. I walked into a neighborhood market that had very few items on its shelves. I asked the clerk if they were closing down, and she said, "No. Why?" Living in a "stocked" environment has serious effects on our awareness of others. The ways in which we pursue material goods, perceive available natural resources, and relate to the larger community are clear indicators that our awareness is low.

"It's not more than you need. Just more than you're used to," says a GM truck ad. Give it time. We'll get used to it.

Material goods have a way of requiring great amounts of attention and they easily distract us from others. We feel the need to protect what we've acquired, to polish what is expensive, and to store what may lose value if left out in the weather. To paraphrase King Solomon: "The abundance of the rich permits no sleep" (Ecclesiastes 5:12b).

I don't believe that Jesus commands us to renounce all possessions. Yet, when possessions act as an immediate substitute for what can come only through faith and patience, our experience of God's immanence is blocked, and we lose our sense of place in the created order. The pursuit of self-serving riches is incompatible with God's will, and it steals time that would be better invested in others. As a result, our indulgence leads to neglect.

-- Excerpt from On Earth as It is in Advertising? Moving from Commercial Hype to Gospel Hope

True confession: I was out last night. Black Friday eve. First time ever and amazed. At midnight, Target had at least a thousand people wrapped around the outside of the building, standing two by twos. Kohls had every parking space taken and cars lined in the far grass, like at the county fairgrounds. I saw the local news van and imagined saying, "I wrote a book about advertising and what's wrong with consumerism. I'm such a hypocrite." I left the crowds without the one item I wanted, but only because I was too tired to push through. Maybe I need to read my own handwriting.

What did you do on Black Friday? Answer in the sidebar poll.


Sheila November 25, 2011 at 9:51 AM  

So...if we live in a consumerism-drenched society, does that mean that it's "consumerist" to want anything?

I think of consumerism as a state when consuming for its own state is acceptable behavior.

Please educate me, Sam.

Sam Van Eman November 25, 2011 at 2:26 PM  

Sheila, I like your definition. I might add that consumerism isn't just a state, but a hyper-state.

The dictionary says "-ism" is a "productive suffix in the formation of nouns denoting action or practice...doctrines...devotion or adherence."

This makes consumerism more serious than shopping or even consuming (which I did a lot of yesterday around the table). Spending outside of your means, neglecting discipline and balance, hoarding, etc., I see these as consumerism.

Sheila November 25, 2011 at 9:08 PM  

That is a helpful refinement, Sam. Thanks.

I ate a whole lot yesterday too. :)

David Rupert November 26, 2011 at 9:31 AM  

I have found it true that the more I have, the more I need to maintain what I have!

For a long time, I really wanted a river drift boat, to fish. The boats weren't too much money and I saved to get one. But then I found taht my little pickup wasnt big enough to haul it. THen I needed a bigger truck. ANd that truck needed better tires. And on and on and on....

Next time, I'll just sit on the bank

Sam Van Eman November 26, 2011 at 9:47 AM  

So true, David. I just want a computer, but then I need a printer, and a scanner, and better speakers, and a camera for conference calls, and security to keep the viruses away and Fios to keep them coming....

Sheila November 27, 2011 at 12:11 PM  

And one of my goals for the new year is to move my writing space from the desk in our kitchen (hub of activity!) to a quiet corner of our bedroom, where my grandfather's old desk, lovingly restored by my husband, waits for me.

But gee, it's so convenient to have a computer in the kitchen. I can quickly check my email. Or look up a new recipe and prepare it once to make sure it's a keeper before I print it for my recipe binder.

So maybe we need a netbook for the kitchen? They're only a few hundred dollars, right? Besides, my 17" laptop is great for home use, but so cumbersome when we travel.

But we don't travel that much. And would it kill me to print a recipe before I try it?

I think I get it, Sam. November 27, 2011 at 6:31 PM  

Sam, I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with shopping for a bargain when the stores are promoting it... My daughters went out to the Limerick outlets with their cousins.. to them, it was like a big adventure. The rest of us adults were like, "uh, no."

So I don't think you're a hypocrite because you went out at midnight and fought for a deal. Good for you. :)

Sam Van Eman November 29, 2011 at 1:11 PM  

Nothing wrong with bargains, Brad, but it's a great day to make a point about consumerism; to celebrate Buy Nothing Day.

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