When this is our approach to life, we are engaged in "financial transactions rather than exchanges of mutual relationships." (p.77) Hsu discusses the consequent adverse effects, including a system which can more easily abuse workers across the globe. But it struck me that we also suffer in this setup.Good thoughts, L.L. I suspect that all of us have a stronger sense of vocation, calling and purpose when we are engaged in the work of making culture rather than consuming culture, as Andy Crouch might put it. I think one of the ways that we can counter consumerism is by practicing the discipline of creativity. The opposite of consumption is production. L.L. says that it's the difference between going to a movie and making one's own. She models this by posting a great little pictorial slide show that her kids made. And here are Charity's reflections:
We suffer a loss of connection, to people and the meaning of work. We suffer with a diminished sense of our own purpose. (Thus being highly attracted to books that offer a purpose-driven life.) We suffer from lack of volition and creativity.
I remember my growing up places as being centers of production, allowing for both creativity and creation. We always had a large garden, and even when I was very young, my parents set aside a small space for me to grow some vegetables. (It wasn't until later in life that I appreciated the work involved with gardening, however!) The food we couldn't eat during the growing season was canned or frozen for winter, and must of the things we ate every day were prepared from their most basic ingredients. But more than that, most of my clothing was homemade; even some of our furniture was built by my dad or handed down from previous relatives who had constructed things with care. And I was given great latitude to create from paper and wood and string all the wonderful things children are wont to make.Thanks again, Charity and L.L., for engaging with these ideas. In many ways, consumption is unavoidable for many of us suburban Christians, and we need to find ways of consuming more Christianly as well as ways of countering consumerism with creativity, simplicity and generosity. And as I've blogged previously, there is hope for us shifting from a consumer culture to a producer culture. What other kinds of creative, creational alternatives to consumption do you practice?
This kind of lifestyle was one suggestion that Al shared in The Suburban Christian for countering the cultural influence of consumerism. Rather than being chiefly identified as consumers, we should try to become creators or producers in as many ways as we can. This not only takes us out of the consumer cycle, which always has a newer or better product for us to buy. It also helps us bear God's image to each other and the culture at large.
Of course we aren't all going to be able to raise chickens or spin wool, but we can exercise our creativity by creating and building things, even things we need. I have a small garden which will provide for some of my own food over the summer; I also try to make my own bread when possible. My mom makes all of her own greeting cards (like Al's wife, as he mentions in the book). And my dad has made several pieces of furniture for his own home and mine. I have friends who knit and crochet, making practical items for themselves and others. Another friend made all the window coverings in her home.
As Al says, "All of us have different ways that we express our creativity; all of us can be makers of one thing or another" (TSC, pg. 88).