Around the end of the nineteenth century a tourist from the Untied states visited the famous Polish Rabbi, Hafez Hayyim. He was astonished to see that the rabbi’s home was just a simple room filled with books. The only furniture was a table and bench. “Rabbi, Where is your furniture?” asked the tourist. “Where’s yours?” replied the rabbi. “Mine? But I am only a visitor here.” “So am I,” said the rabbi.”
But for most of us, Just too much stuff:
Big house, big car, wide screen, full bar
Great room, new boat bank won’t float the note.
Too much stuff, there’s just too much stuff.
It’ll hold you up, dealin with too much stuff.
Hangin on the couch, puttin on the pounds
walk, run, jump, swim, try to hold the weigh down
Eating too much stuff, just too much stuff,
It’ll wear you down carryin round too much stuff.
Go here, go there, runnin round to everywhere
gettin this gettin that, clutter only leads to rats
Too much stuff, just too much stuff.
It’ll mess you up, piling up too much stuff.
Yes, just too much stuff.
But where to begin to live more simply, and to stop running after stuff? Perhaps only God can effect the change we need. Our addiction to “stuff” knows almost no limits. And the more we get, the more we want. Yet despite supersizing, we are not more fulfilled, indeed we seem emptier. Some of the houses I bless these days have “great rooms” as big as the entire house I grew up in. Yet our families do not seem any happier.
But still we want the stuff! More stuff!
Now, of course, we do need some stuff, but what and how much? In my own life I try to set some priorities around my essential tasks. Thus, in the celebration of the sacraments, my first and most essential task, I own a few decent albs, and a cassock and surplice. I don’t need to own many personal vestments since the parish supplies them, but I do, as pastor make sure we have decent vestments on hand for sacred worship. My clergy clothes (aka “witness” clothes) ought to be decent, clean and in good repair, as well since public presence and witness are important for a priest.
One of my essential tasks is to be a communicator and to be “out there” in the conversation. Thus I place a high priority on a good, fast, and working computer, with a display that won’t ruin my eyes. I also have a high end iPhone and iPad that link to my MAC, and are essential to my Internet ministry when I am away from my desk. Books and access to intellectual resources via the internet and Kindle are also important so that I can research and stay intellectually fresh.
Beyond these basic priorities however, I don’t need much more. I don’t need a fancy new car. My old, outdated “late model” “Crown Victoria” inherited from my father, runs just fine and still looks reasonable. And did I mention it is paid for? I don’t own furniture, the good people of the parish provide that. I do get gifts of statues and other such things, but I often leave a lot of these behind when I must move. I own a few pictures to hang on the wall, but many of these too are left behind when I must move.
But that’s just my story. Yours will be different. What is most essential for the biggest priorities in your life. Perhaps it is tools of your trade. Perhaps it is things that help you parent effectively. Surely a reasonably nice home for your family to live and grow in important. But is a 1200 sq. ft. Great room really needed and are granite counter tops really that essential? Is a sixty inch wide screen, and television in every bedroom really necessary? For some families a good family van that is safe and easy to get in and out of, is important
I don’t know, you decide. But something has to give for most of us, there’s just too much stuff. Many of us live way beyond our means, credit cards are maxed out, mortgage payments for houses that are way too big weigh us down, we eat too much, buy too much, spend too much, have too much. Clutter is a huge issue in many lives and in many homes. Obesity is rampant, even in children (almost unheard of 30 years ago).
It’s just too much stuff.
Ask the Lord for help. Less is more, but discernment is needed. There are things we need to have in order to accomplish our most important tasks and its often a good idea to spend a little extra and get something good, rather than go with poor resources that end up costing more in time and even money in the long run.
And remember the poor and needy. With much of the frivolous and unnecessary spending we do buying a lot of “stuff,” injustice to the poor is a very real possibility. If I have two shirts, one belongs to the poor. And while “two shirts” need not receive a literal interpretation, it remains true that hoarding and careless, frivolous spending becomes a form of theft if there are poor and needy members of our families, churches and communities who go without while we just pile up “stuff.” We do have obligations in justice to the poor if we are possessed of excess.
Too much stuff! Lord, give us the grace to simplify, to be satisfied with what we have and to consider poor before we just go out and spend. Help us prioritize too, so that, having constrained our appetite for a thousand things, we can focus our spending on what will most help us to accomplish the tasks to which you have summoned us. Help us Lord, were drowning in too much stuff.
Enjoy a little boogie and blues on the theme of too much stuff!