Even though this book was published in 2005 this quote seems to speak directly to the current climate of economic doom and gloom that's on everyone's lips. Are these economic problems really concrete issues best solved in the board rooms of the business world or are they a sign of something deeper? Are the big boys really just smoothing a little cream on a rash when we should be doing a liver cleanse??? As a society have we simply lost our way, are we spiritually bereft? And is that now simply being reflected in what's going on in the market place? Do we need to look a lot deeper if we are ever going to begin to deal with the real problems?
Yesterday I was reading about a book called "The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property." It is apparently a longstanding cult classic with a multidisciplinary approach that's been getting a bit of press lately. The book references Native cultures where wealth was based on the gifts given rather than the possessions held. These cultures were cultures of abundance and sharing (gift giving) while our society is based on scarcity and personal ownership. When you think about our consumer society, it keeps on chugging along by constantly creating a sense of need or desire in us, the consumer (kind of the opposite of a Buddhist practice in a way, where we want to lessen the grips of our attachments.)
Advertising is based on this idea that we lack something. We are needs waiting to be filled. Advertising's sole aim is to stimulate desire in us, desire strong enough to motivate us to go out and buy something. If we just had this diamond or that soap or this cereal we would be more beautiful, more satisfied, healthier. How much of our culture revolves around advertising and selling and shopping? I read a study that asked people where were they most likely to be found. If I remember correctly, the second most popular answer was "the mall".
If we are good consumers we respond to this advertising, hoping to find happiness in this face cream or that car, the relentless search..... the poverty mind, that Pema Chodron talks about. So here's a radical idea, maybe we can become the solution to the economic crisis, maybe we can realign ourselves with abundance mind, maybe we can be happy with what we already have, with trading and sharing, swapping and gift giving. Maybe we can contemplate what would really make us feel happy and abundant. Maybe once we work on eliminating poverty mind in ourselves, this will start to spread and grow and we will reach some strange unimaginable tipping point where sanity and abundance prevail in a quieter more satisfied world.