Obsession with Material Things?

materialismIt can seem, in the affluent parts of our globe, that to buy is our fortune. It could also be said that, if buying is good, more buying is better.

Of course, we’re in the middle of an economic crisis and some folks might think we need moderation in interaction with the human-created marketplace—that we not treat it as some magically powerful entity that must be worshiped with human sacrifice.

“Huh?”

I’ll get back to that human sacrifice idea in a bit…

Today on SoulPancake a discussion was started called, Are we completely obsessed with material possessions? Do they mean anything?. Here’s a representative sample of the comments:

“An iPhone to match your sneakers? Sneakers to match your vest?”

“I love clothes and dinners out with friends, and new shiny things but understand the completely vapid nature of these things.”

“They only mean something if you let it mean something. If it makes you happy then buy it.”

“Honestly, if you have the CASH to buy this stuff up front, go right ahead.”

“Few people lie on their death bed and talk about that car they should have bought or that purse that they were so close to buying”

“As someone below pointed out it does have a huge impact on making the world as we know it go round”

“…yes we are obsessed, and its not a good thing. And yes, these things are important but shouldn’t be occupying our thoughts and efforts to the extent at which it is.”

” Its all one big contest and a race to the finish line. Its a shame most people don’t stop and look around them more often.”

I was happy to see, at least, a range of responses in the normally affluent participants on the site.

I was very sad about a few of them: “If it makes you happy then buy it.”, “Honestly, if you have the CASH to buy this stuff up front, go right ahead.”

Here’s where the idea of materialism brings up the idea of human sacrifice.

Who suffers for the extraction of the raw materials needed to make all the fanciful things people buy?

Who receives no help in their daily lives because they happen to live where the marketeers won’t put their markets?

Who sweats away their days making the toys of the affluent?

Who can any longer ignore that We are One Human Family and what hurts one hurts all ?

Spiritual Quote:

“Whether as world-view or simple appetite, materialism’s effect is to leach out of human motivation—and even interest—the spiritual impulses that distinguish the rational soul. ‘For self-love,’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has said, ‘is kneaded into the very clay of man, and it is not possible that, without any hope of a substantial reward, he should neglect his own present material good.’ In the absence of conviction about the spiritual nature of reality and the fulfilment it alone offers, it is not surprising to find at the very heart of the current crisis of civilization a cult of individualism that increasingly admits of no restraint and that elevates acquisition and personal advancement to the status of major cultural values. The resulting atomization of society has marked a new stage in the process of disintegration about which the writings of Shoghí Effendí speak so urgently.

“To accept willingly the rupture of one after another strand of the moral fabric that guides and disciplines individual life in any social system, is a self-defeating approach to reality. If leaders of thought were to be candid in their assessment of the evidence readily available, it is here that one would find the root cause of such apparently unrelated problems as the pollution of the environment, economic dislocation, ethnic violence, spreading public apathy, the massive increase in crime, and epidemics that ravage whole populations. However important the application of legal, sociological or technological expertise to such issues undoubtedly is, it would be unrealistic to imagine that efforts of this kind will produce any significant recovery without a fundamental change of moral consciousness and behaviour.”
Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 90

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Youth and The Future of Faith

Deutsche Welle has a recent article, Religion Stronger Than Ever Among Global Youth, that reports on the results of a survey by Germany’s Bertelsmann Foundation that discovered, “Young people in developing countries and Islamic states are just as religious as adults… In Morocco, about 99 percent believe in God and life after death. Among Brazilians, Turks and Nigerians, 90 percent are believers and even in Israel, Indonesia and Italy, the rate is 80 percent.”

This is heartening news for those who feel religion is the premier guide for living on this earth.

For those who are suspicious of religion’s influence on culture and individual behavior, I present my own experience: born to two ministers—mom and dad; surrounded by plain folk trying their best to do what other folk claimed was what God desired. Knowing something was amiss when I got home and my ministerial father would turn cranky and treat my trusting mother like she mattered less than his automobile…

It took most of my 62 years (and many tragic mistakes) to work out the supreme conflict between my father’s religion and my mother’s faith. May God bless both their departed souls…

There are many movements afoot on our beloved earth trying to bring the Spirit back to the bleeding body of Religion. Many sincere people, meeting in each other’s homes or the local school auditorium or the woods—people trying to ignite the spirit that moved the earliest believers of our World’s Faiths—actually the One World Faith in God that has had many incarnations, many progressive Revelations of our Creator’s wisdom and guidance.

It’s just so sad when mere mortals get in the way of the flame of true faith, subvert it toward ends that serve egos more than souls…

Today’s quote is from a man, Head of a World Faith, who in 1926 called for just such a heart-deep, faith-fresh religious morality that could help youth avoid the worst options in a world gone insanely materialistic.

“…the dangers facing the modern youth are becoming increasingly grave, and call for immediate solution. But, as experience clearly shows, the remedy to this truly sad and perplexing situation is not to be found in traditional and ecclesiastical religion. The dogmatism of the church has been discarded once for all. What can control youth and save it from the pitfalls of the crass materialism of the age is the power of a genuine, constructive and living Faith… Religion, as in the past, is still the world’s sole hope, but not that form of religion which our ecclesiastical leaders strive vainly to preach. Divorced from true religion, morals lose their effectiveness and cease to guide and control man’s individual and social life. But when true religion is combined with true ethics, then moral progress becomes a possibility and not a mere ideal.

“The need of our modern youth is for such a type of ethics founded on pure religious faith. Not until these two are rightly combined and brought into full action can there be any hope for the future of the race.”

From a letter written on behalf of Shoghí Effendí to an individual believer, April 17, 1926, Bahá’í Youth, pp. 8-9 (Lights of Guidance, p. 630)


Health & Well-Being

Very hard to imagine having well-being without having health first.

Of course, there’s a certain strain of human who, blinded by rank materialism, chases a “well-being” that shrivels their soul…

The quote I’ll share today clearly puts the horse before the cart.

I do want to clarify one word in that quote, “Kingdom”. Many folk are biased against that word when used in the context of spirituality. They’re usually correct in fearing the hidden agendas of people who use that word way too often and, unknowingly, for their own benefit.

I’ll clarify it with another short quote by the same Author:

“This will be the paradise which is to come on earth, when all mankind will be gathered together under the tent of unity in the Kingdom of Glory.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 22

“If the health and well-being of the body be expended in the path of the Kingdom, this is very acceptable and praiseworthy; and if it is expended to the benefit of the human world in general—even though it be to their material benefit and be a means of doing good—that is also acceptable. But if the health and welfare of man be spent in sensual desires, in a life on the animal plane, and in devilish pursuits—then disease is better than such health; nay, death itself is preferable to such a life. If thou art desirous of health, wish thou health for serving the Kingdom. I hope thou mayest attain a perfect insight, an inflexible resolution, a complete health and spiritual and physical strength in order that thou mayest drink from the fountain of eternal life and be assisted by the spirit of divine confirmation.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 376

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~ Unleash The Life Within ~
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Materialism

Are the fish aware of the ocean?

Are we aware of the all-surrounding spiritual realm?

“The sea of materialism is at flood tide and all the nations of the world are immersed in it. It is my hope that the fish will rise to the surface, so that they may behold other wondrous aspects of creation; for the people are like unto the fish swimming in the deep—ignorant of the rest of the universe. May they be transformed into birds of the air and soar in the nether atmosphere! May they break all bonds of limitation, so that they can observe from the height the lordly processions of infinite creatures; they will see the blue heavens studded with luminous stars, rivers flowing with salubrious water, gardens bedecked with fragrant flowers, trees adorned with blossoms and fruits, birds singing songs of light, humanity ever striving forward, every atom of existence breathing life and force—the universe of God a wonderful theatre upon the stage of which every created thing plays its part.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 138