Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:44 PM
If you look up ‘consume’ in the dictionary, you’ll find that most of its definitions are negative ones—besides ‘to eat or ingest’ there is ‘to waste or squander; to absorb or engross; to ravage or totally destroy.’ (The American Heritage Dictionary, third edition) However, we are named ‘consumers’ by the media so often these days that the word no longer holds a negative connotation for us. I find this desensitization to be a dangerous one, because I believe our society has led itself into an unhealthy imbalance as it has increasingly focused on the act of consuming. We are here on the earth to begin to learn how to become creators, not consumers. The survival instinct of consuming requires no further honing or development on our part. Yet we seem to spend more time consuming or finding ways to be able to consume more. It is vital to our mental, emotional, spiritual—and perhaps economic—health that we find a way to balance the act of consuming with the act of creating in our daily lives.
Almost any type of work, from gardening to lawyering, can be a creative activity if we choose to make it so. When we clean the house, we create order. When we read a book, we recreate for ourselves the world the author has already created. When we exercise, we create new muscles and blood vessels. When we take care of children or parents or neighbors, we create bonds of love. For me, creativity is part of the process of living a rich life.
Hugh Nibley wrote, “Who then is to judge what is good, true, and beautiful? You are. Plato says it anamnesis, the act of recalling what we have seen somewhere before...We recognize what is lovely because we have seen it somewhere else, and as we walk through the world, we are constantly on the watch for it with a kind of nostalgia, so that when we see an object or a person that pleases us, it is like recognizing an old friend; it hits us in the solar plexus, and we need no measuring or lecturing to tell us that it is indeed quite perfect. It is something we have long been looking for, something we have seen in another world, a memory of how things should be." (Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion)
Mark Helprin wrote, “One lives for a very short time, and life is incomparably precious. To live has much less to do with the senses or with ambition than with the asking of questions that never have been surely answered. To ask and then to answer these questions as far as one can, one needs above all a priceless and taxing involvement with truth and beauty. These are uncommonly plentiful in music and painting, in nature itself, in the sciences, in history, and in one's life as it unfolds—if one labors and dares to see them.” (Mark Helprin, “The Canon Under Siege”)
Our minds are like muscles, which atrophy and become flabby if not used. Exercise will have holistic benefits, which will flow to other areas of our lives. As we begin to flex our creativity, we will find ourselves more able to deal with challenges which confront us, more adept at critical thinking and problem solving; better equipped to make informed decisions; increasingly able to form our own opinions; more disciplined. We will spend less of our time in idle consumption.
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On 7/9/06 , Susan Martin said...

This article was beautifully written and very timely for me, as I am just beginning to be aware of this topic and its importance in my life. Thanks for your insights and inspiration.

On 7/9/06 , Michelle H. said...

Hmm... My comment of several hours ago has not appeared. Does that mean it was not approved by the blog author? Ouch!

Well, I'll try again.

Here are some books that I've read this past year that relate to this topic:

-The Overspent American/Judith Schor (excellent book on overconsumption; Why do we do it? What are the social, economic, personal, spiritual costs of this problem?)
-Born to Buy/Judith Schor (explores marketing geared to children)
-Affluenza/DeGraaf, Wann, Naylor (more about the problems of overconsumption)
-Not Buying It/I forget the author (a woman makes a goal to spend nothing for a year)
-Better Off/Eric Brende (a guy goes to live with the Amish or Mennonites for a year and writes about technology and community)
-A Sabbath Life/Kathleen Hirsch (A feminist feels unsatisfied with her career-driven life. Starts exploring paths to spirituality and wholeness. Slows down, realligns her priorities. Has lots to say about the creative work of women and how creativity is tied to spirituality.)

I would recommend all of them, especially the first and last.

I really loved this post, Luisa. I would love to hear more on how you work these ideas into your life. Do you sometimes feel pressure to keep up with the Jones or to purchase something for your kids so they'll fit in? What are some of the situations in which you purposely choose to spend less than might be the norm in your community, or less than you could easily afford? How does creativity permeate your life? How do you transmit these values to your kids? This is a fascinating topic to me.

Keep up the good blog!

-Michelle H.