The Allure of Bigger & Better — And How Easily We Got Pulled In!!!
Several years ago, my husband and I built a small house on some land in the country. From the beginning it was intended to be SIMPLE and it was — two large rooms with a bathroom in between; painted concrete floors; cabinets and fixtures from Home Depot — most of which my husband installed.
We lived here happily for several years. Then the paint on the concrete started to chip off — we re-painted and soon after the paing began chipping again. A painting contractor informed us it would continue chipping forever because the concrete had never been properly treated before painting.
What to do? We looked around at alternatives and were soon seduced by some gorgeous images of bamboo flooring. How very hip, how ecological, how lovely — surely it merited the large cost. Little did we realize until we’d ordered and paid for the product that bamboo flooring isn’t well-suited for our altitude (we hadn’t done enough on-line vetting). In addition, we had to add the issue of tiling the bathroom floor — bamboo doesn’t do well when wet and tile all around the woodstove — it doesn’t tolerate intense heat. All this added up to a great deal of inconvenience, labor and of course expense.
Finally, I looked at my husband and said, “What about our principle of keeping this place SIMPLE? We’d totally agreed on that and consistently moved in that direction and have been very content…What happened?”
Well, what happened is the old allure of the new, the bigger and the better. It grabs at you all the time from advertisements in print and on-line. I’m reminded of the swamp that the pilgrim, John Bunyan, had to cross in his book Pilgrim’s Progress. On one side of him lay Sloth, on another side Gluttony…In some ways, I feel we are in the same predicament — only we must navigate through the constant loud insistent demands for revamping, embellishing, beautifying, re-doing, enhancing what doesn’t need to be enhanced? Or could be enhanced in a much easier, simpler, less expensive ways— for us that would have meant painting over the chipped-off spots every once in a while.
I’m reminded of a cousin who had a bright, cheerful white and red kitchen. Yet as soon as she figured the household had enough money to spend thousands and thousands on a remodel, she moved forward — now she has a very glamorous kitchen — I say glamorous because it’s mostly black with glittery black countertops, a slate floor, custom-designed cherry wood cabinets — you get the picture. They do love it! Or say they do. I miss the cheery old kitchen.
I feel we have to strive to resist, resist, resist the allure of Bigger and Better for our clothes, our cars, our homes, our travel destinations. Because if we live simply, there will be enough….
Here’s a quote from Pawnee chief Sharitahrish that he gave to dignitaries at the White House in 1834: I am like you, my Great Father, I love my country; I love my people; I love the manner in which we live, and think myself and warriors brave; spare me then, my Father, let me enjoy my country, and pursue the buffalo, and the beaver, and the other wild animals of our wilderness, and I will trade the skins with your people. I have grown up and lived thus long without work; I am in hopes you will suffer me to die without it. We have yet plenty of buffalo, beaver, deer, and other wild animals; we have also an abundance of horses. We have everything we want. We have plenty of land, if you will keep your people off of it.
I’m struck by how he describes the abundance of everything needed by the Pawnee in the United States at that time (without working). And, of course, you and I know how it all radically changed with the introduction of white settlers to the country — how the bison were slaughtered, the open land was fenced, the woods were largely cleared of beaver and other creatures. Today our all-consuming greed and consumerism keeps the world out of balance — with a few owning far too much and the multitudes possessing far too little. A tragic situation for both, in my opinion.
The next time we’re confronted with an issue at our house, I pray my husband and I will stick toour original principle of SIMPLICITY — and strive to maintain it despite all the relentlessly invidious allure of doing otherwise.