Sunday, March 6, 9983

Materialism vs. Spirituality

There appear to be two ends of the life spectrum: materialism and spirituality.

Materialism involves money, possessions, social status, accomplishments, fashion, beauty, television, physical comfort, judgment, and, when necessary, lying, stealing, and violence.  Friends and lovers are chosen based on physical appearance, wealth, or other things that we can “get” from them.  People hoard their wealth so that they can enjoy more and better food, housing, transportation, entertainment, medical care, etc.  In business we try to “beat” others and maximize our gain.  Compassion is viewed as foolishness and weakness.

Spirituality involves seeing who we are underneath our externals.  We value each other because we are conscious, sensitive beings, and we do not favor one person over another according to their physical beauty, wealth, accomplishments, nationality, skin color, or blood relation.  We are in this world but not of it.  More material (possessions, lovers, social status) does not necessarily make us happier, and in fact will make us less happy if we use it to separate ourselves from others.  If one person is cold, starving or sick, we have compassion and help him (if we are able to) because he is suffering.  In business we provide a product or service for a fair price and do not attempt to finagle more than that, because to do so would be unfair.

Either end of the spectrum can be unpleasant: materiality causes fear, suspicion, anger and loneliness; while spirituality can prevent innovation and leave us vulnerable to being taken advantage of by materialists.  We can balance these, but that might still be unpleasant: a materialist might despise being fair or generous, and a spiritual person might not enjoy having to be distrustful of some strangers or business acquaintances.  Can/should we live a double life of some materialism and some spirituality?  Can we maintain integrity and dignity while doing so?

Perhaps this balancing act is what we need to learn in order to grow.  Maybe that’s why we’re here in the first place.  (There is no way to know of course.)  Pure materialism can cause lots of fear, anger and frustration.  Pure spirituality involves rejection of the world, possibly leading to starvation and disease (if we just meditate instead of growing crops or building shelter).  Developing the ability to balance the two takes growth, effort, honesty, accomplishment, and compassion.