The God Called Materialism
By James Donahue
Unless you were born and raised in a so-called third world country
the overcrowded masses eke out their existence in extreme poverty, you were
groomed from childhood to worship materialism.
The need for warmth, food and shelter is basic. But to desire a luxury
home with two-car attached garage, a swimming pool, two bathrooms, closets
filled with clothes and a wine cellar stocked with the worlds finest, is pure
The celebration of Christmas is, in reality, training ground for
children. By experiencing the lights, glitter and rich foods leading up to the
big day when a magical stack of free gifts are awarded, the child quickly
adapts to the artificial thrill of acquiring shiny but usually unnecessary
things. I personally remember the excitement felt during the build-up, and then
the strange feeling of disappointment and depression within hours, if not
minutes after the last gift was opened.
It seemed that everything we did for weeks, and sometimes months
Christmas was in preparation for that moment of gift exchange. Then the bright
papers were rapidly torn away, the secret things in the boxes revealed, and
then the fall. Is that all? I remember asking myself.
Indeed, we eventually determined that it was all a hoax. The Santa
The baby Jesus story. The international prayer for love. All faked. The plastic
toys were usually broken or tossed aside before New Year. The best gift might
have been a pair of ice skates, or a new sled.
I grew up not understanding why I disliked Christmas as much as I
But I fell into the rut of materialism just the same. My wife and I were both
professional people who worked hard to acquire as much material wealth as
possible. We usually had two and sometimes three cars in the driveway. We
bought and sold several homes. And Christmas at our house was probably more
elaborate than anything either Doris or I remembered during our childhood.
We did something very strange about ten years ago. We got interested
esoteric things, began studying new concepts of life, and decided we had been
going in the wrong direction for a very long time.
We sold or gave away virtually
everything we had. The house, the cars,
the big color televisions, luxury beds, stereos, vast music collection, books,
furniture, and a large display case filled with rare antique and collectible glassware. It all went. We had two large auctions over the course of about five
or six years before we disposed of everything. But eventually it was all gone.
We used the money to pay
off all of our debts, then struck out in our one
car and a Ryder truck filled with clothes and a few things we thought we could
keep, for Arizona where we lived with the Navajo and Hopi people.
Within months nearly everything in that truck was stolen from us.
homeless, destitute, and often without jobs. But we learned a valuable lesson
during our three years in the wilderness. Things didn't matter.
It took wit and pure guts sometimes, but Doris and I got through
ordeal. To this day we are still living with only the things we need and little
else. We live in a modest, one-bedroom apartment, drive a functional
10-year-old vehicle and eat our meals on an oak drop leaf table that Doris
picked up in a used-furniture store.
And we don't celebrate Christmas.
Doris passed on in June so this will be my first holiday spent without
her. But still, life is good. We made a heck of a go of our lives together and she left behind a lot of wonderful memories.