What is it about seasonal garden bounty that makes me feel that I am bursting with wealth? One look at a wooden bowl overflowing with straight-from-the-garden produce and I feel as though I have a full wine cellar, Swiss bank accounts, ranches stocked with thousands of cattle, hillside vineyards with reclaimed castles, and all the rest. Only better because I earned it through honest labor. This is plain living at its finest.
Isn’t it amazing how society has changed? In many cultures, symbols of wealth or status revolve around battle scars, proof of proper food provisions, animals, and farmable land. Status symbols are a study in sociological values. For centuries, those were the earmarks of wealth and success the world over but somehow things have changed.
In America, we are obsessed with perceived wealth. One scan through the channels on any American television set and one can quickly grasp what I’m talking about. The current hit television shows? Royal Pains (about a concierge doctor in the Hamptons and his social climbing brother), Real Housewives of Orange County/New York/New Jersey (about plastic trophy wives with credit cards and petty interpersonal problems), Millionaire Matchmaker (about golddigging floozies getting paired up with millionaires), and the list goes on and on. Much of our music centers around drugs, pricey alcohol, bling (precious stones set in precious metals), luxury vehicles, designer clothing, and having lots of recreational sex.
As I sat weeding the garden the other day, I stumbled upon a lovely spider sitting in the middle of an intricately woven web. I felt a rush. In my world, finding secret beauty — hidden from the rest of the world’s view — is like walking into a dealership and driving away with a Rolls Royce. In a country where happiness is seen as being a mere credit card swipe away… is it any wonder that antidepressants are a $10 billion industry? We’ve lost touch with what is real, tangible, and worthwhile. All of our fast cars and fancy clothes still leave us empty and seeking.
Of course, I am not immune. One step in a mall or shopping center and I am very aware that my clothing is out of style. Everywhere I turn, I see things I would like to have ranging from dishes/pottery to shoes. But as I look at them, I’ve learned to combat the urge to buy them by picturing myself packing a suitcase for Africa or passing it onto my children. Is it an heirloom item that my kids would treasure? Is it an item I could wear in a third world country without feeling guilty? The answer is almost always: no.
How do you keep it real?