Sunday, January 18, 2009

Impatience Is A Shopper's Virtue

Yesterday I went down to the art supply store to pick up a couple of canvases.  On the way back to the car my partner and I wandered in to a local home decor store when some art in the window caught my eye.  As we were walked by a bedroom display he poked me and said, "You are virtuous."

"What?"  I looked around and he pointed to sign sitting on the night table.  It read (I kid you not):  "Impatience is a virtue." and went on to describe some credit plan that would allow you to purchase what you wanted right now.   I poked him back. His quip was meant as a joke and as in all jokes there is an element of truth!  Impatience would be one of those things I work with... I like my results and I like them right now!  Ah, I never run out of things to train with!

But the story for me was, that the store and  the copy writer who created this little ad thought it a fine way (and slightly funny too I'm guessing) to persuade people to buy what they might not be able to afford, to encourage them to buy on impulse...  To use desire and the instant need to fill it as a way of selling their wares.  And would there be shoppers who would respond to this reverse, perverse logic?  Might that help you justify buying something when reason and patience dictate that you think it over or leave it until another day?  You might actually go home and the clutches of desire for that new couch might fade or your credit card statement might appear in the mail and a cooler head prevail?

So if we are doing our practice and trying to lessen the grip of desire we are doing a difficult thing, going against the culturally condoned sentiments of our consumer culture.  There is a quote from Buddhist scripture that says something like "when we undertake training we are standing against the world."  And I think this is the pragmatic meaning of it.  "You're a freak if you don't want stuff, new stuff and want it now."  I have found it so interesting (and at first slightly disconcerting) that shopping no longer holds a lot of interest for me.  I come from a long line of shoppers and still have friends that find solace in a little retail therapy, but for me the charm has worn off for the most part.  Oh sure I still need stuff now and then and still buy stuff and enjoy it but shopping as an afternoon's outing no longer holds much interest.  When I first noticed this loss of  a form of entertainment and excitement  I felt a little lost, perhaps disappointed in a strange way.  A pleasure lost.  I had to adjust to my new mind that had somehow been quietly changing below the surface. 

Ultimately I think it is about coming to know the truth  .... the difference between pleasure (found in outside things) and happiness (a state generated from the inside).  First we hear about it and then after a while it becomes part of us.  Then we can know that a houseful of brand new furniture can't really make us happy.  And no one can convince us then that impatience is a virtue.  Unless you work on commission!

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