essentials

Recently I started reading Dallas Willard’s “The Divine Conspiracy.” I know – my choice for reading is about a year or two behind everyone in North America. Actually, who knows and who cares? This morning I read the following…

“Must one not wonder about people willing to wear a commercial trademark on the outside of their shirts or caps or shoes to let others know who they are? And just think of a world in which little children sing, “I wish I were a [certain kind of] wiener. That is what I really want to be. For if I were [that certain kind of] wiener. Everyone would be in love with me.”

“Think of what it would mean to be a weenie, or for someone to love you as they “love” a hot dog. Think of a world in which adults would pay millions of dollars to have children perform this song in “commercials” and in which hundreds of millions, even billions, of adults find no problem in it. You are thinking of our world.” (“The Divine Conspiracy”, by Dallas Willard, p. 9, HarperCollins Publishers)

Something refreshing about living where I live and being with the people with whom I live, eat, breathe and work is how little they care about material things. The Western world is consumed with wearing the latest, having the greatest in electronics and it’s no wonder there are so many problems with debt. The people around me have different concerns than most people in North America, and in cold season I think these concerns are often highlighted. They’re concerned about being warm enough at night. They’re concerned that their children will at least have one warm shirt. They’re concerned about earning enough money in a month to feed their family, pay the electricity bills (if they have electricity), send their kids to school (public transportation – half the kids in my village go to school in another village). They work hard. Their children work hard. Clothes are worn because they’re clothes. If a little girl gets a pretty shirt, she’s fortunate. Pink hats on men and boys are a common sight here. They see it as a warm hat. They wear it to keep warm. It’s as simple as that.

Not everyone is like this in Thailand, and not everyone is like this even where I live. There certainly are people still concerned with their attire but I think how you dress and how you present yourself is valued much more than colours or fashion. You do see ironic things here as well – like a bamboo house with a satellite standing outside like a monument as chickens run around, while Thai soaps entertain those gathered inside. Knockoffs are huge in Thailand as well but it really doesn’t matter how the brand name is spelled, as long as it looks similar and the product looks good. Nike becomes Nite and Prada bags are inexpensive.

I realize that the people around me live like this because this is the life they were born into – not that it’s bad or good, it’s just life. They have enough to eat and a place to sleep at night and they work hard from the early morning before the sun rises, until it sets again. They’re content for the most part.

What if the Western world were to wake up one morning and live like they’re in survival mode? Would priorities change? Would the media still have as much influence as it does? Would boys wear pink hats in the winter and girls settle with (wait for it) jeans that reach their waist (gasp!) (or has that actually become the fashion again?)? If you were to trim your life down to the basics, would you care? Would you suffer? Would you crave the luxuries of having over a hundred TV channels or your own car? What do you consider essential in your life?

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