I got a strange sense of disconnect when I read through a recent Wall Street Journal. Some articles sounded the alarm of Iceland’s melting debt, GM laying off thousands, commodity values dropping like a ton of lead. I read of worldwide chaos and deep recession. I felt the panic of the financial community and my own echoing fear as well.
However, interspersed with this gloom and doom were glimpses of an entirely different world. I spotted Tiffany diamond studs offered at $1 million. In LA, Sushi chiefs present omakase for $300 a plate. Steve Martin will rent you his St. Barts Villa for only $28,000 per week.
I am confused. What’s going on here? Which ‘reality’ do I trust?
This clashing mix of fear and opulence brings to mind Nero fiddling while Rome burned. This popular myth placed the last emperor of Rome idly standing by while the city burned about him. Then Nero blames the Christians for setting the fire! Although fiddles didn’t exist in Roman times, the image still rings true in the current situation.
Certainly we are seeking a financial scapegoat for the present global crisis. I’ve seen Henry and Ben both sidestepping the mud and rotten tomatoes. Alan Greenspan, that sage of previous financial hard times, has been pilloried as well.
Yet perhaps we need to look a closer to home. It may be that we can use these current events as a wake up call. They may allow us to claim our own responsibility and by so doing, regain our own personal power.
I know in the past I have been prone to material excess. When I had it, I spent it. In fact, I usually OVERSPENT, given the generous credit and inventive marketing of must-have products.
Electronic gadgets were my weakness. I needed the biggest computer, the flattest TV screen. I craved the most current software update even before it was a gleam in Bill Gate’s eye.
I did my part to make our economy grow and thrive. I like to think, patriotically, I provide needed jobs for all those folks making and marketing the goodies that I bought.
But as Bob Dylan sings, the times, they are a changin’. I believe the present situation may call for a return to a simpler way of life. And that will be hard for me, to adjust to a voluntary simplicity. Of making do with less, by choice, not by deprivation.
My initial steps will be small ones: I am cutting back on magazine and newspaper subscriptions. I’m actually reading my cell phone bill to see if I need all the minutes I am paying for. I am discontinuing a dedicated fax line that I use, maybe, once a month. I am evaluating whether I can get good music via computer feed instead of the XM service I pay for.
At the same time, I want to recognize and acknowledge value received. I am retaining my high speed Internet connection, my link to the world. I am considering buying a used piano, because I want to participate in music, not just listen to it.
The big step for me will come early next year when my car lease expires. I am evaluating going car-less for the first time since a teenager.
It may be a challenge in the small town where I live, but I will be giving it a trial run over the next few months: walking more, tuning up my bicycle, giving public transportation a try.
I want to change, I need to change, because how I am presently living is giving me headaches. But it will mean a sea change for me from being spontaneous to living more intentionally.
In order to connect with my world, I need to see life more clearly undistorted by illusions that no longer fit. I want to feel authentic in these turbulent times.