The way material objects effect our spirits is rarely considered in our modern society, even as we nitpick over form and function, and consume to an extreme degree. I’m not bringing an argument just against consumerism, but more broadly to the apathy, lack of respect, and nonchalance with which so many of us use the objects in our lives. To say material objects are just things that don’t really matter is not even a solution to the problem of extreme consumerism. Objects do matter, and want to use objects on a very fundamental level as human beings. We have been doing it since before history. It is all about utility. What are we using the object for, and why? We buy objects for their use, even if it is only to look beautiful, and their use is significant to us, because it actually reflects a spiritual desire or need.
For me, everything has spiritual significance, so saying that most objects only have practical uses paints over the problem. What we consider necessary, practically speaking, for our lives is a spiritual question. The many ways in which we currently use objects belie a need for more spiritual meaning in our lives. The irony is that we are using material objects, which inherently have spiritual significance and therefore can be tools on a path to enlightenment, to compensate for spiritual emptiness.
Let me speak within the context of parenting, since I think about it so much. The Modern Mother deems many objects necessary to her ability to parent, thereby creating dependence on the objects, and decreasing, or not building in the first place, her innate parenting abilities. The parenting object is expected or hoped to have a specific effect on the behavior of the child or the ease with which the parent can deal with the child’s behavior. If and when the child’s behavior turns “bad,” the object can not really come to the rescue, and the parenting skill that is needed to deal with the situation has never been developed sufficiently prior to the event. There has not even been the necessary development of an image in the parent’s mind about how they might deal with a situation, except to turn to materials. In effect, the object becomes a charm or medicine meant to cure or ward off behavior without the attendant spiritual preparation that would be necessary to make such an object work.
We buy things for convenience, we buy things to teach our children, and in the process take ourselves and our responsibility to change and learn as parents out of the equation. The visible power of objects eclipses invisible powers. Our society considers financial stability a necessity to raise a child, because we have built this huge, expensive structure of stuff around our children in place of actually being responsible for who we are. Who we are, and how spiritually full or empty we are, is what we teach our children. These days, most parents are using objects to parent, instead of parenting with meaningful, useful objects.
Objects can be magical, even as they are useful. Objects can reflect the beauty or ugliness in ourselves as we use them. We are wielding powerful objects, all of us, whether in awareness or not, so let’s imagine what we can do in awareness.