We’re now dashing at full pelt, baubles a-jangling, into the time of year that for most means filling stockings and annual indulgence quotas with food, drink, and a more generous number of shopping trips than we’d normally allow ourselves. It’s about this time that penny-pinching and careful budgeting are bid farewell for a few festive weeks, when pockets and department stores are emptied of their contents.
It’s easy, especially at Christmas, to get rather cynical and censorious about our fondness for material things. Materialism is, apparently, the root cause of the world’s ills, a byword for modern-age corruption, an unhealthy, aggressive act of self-assertion epitomised by that stock fictional character embedded in the popular consciousness: the rotten rich idiot. We know him from Hollywood, from Dickens and Thackeray, from Rabelais and Amis. The desire to possess seems synonymous with shallowness, selfishness, concern with only the skin-deep.
Society’s more spiritual voices might tell us that attempting to buy one’s way to contentment through the accumulation of material possessions – of stuff – is fundamentally misguided. But the span of such blanket judgements is, I think, a tad too broad; the simple act of buying things, and of wanting to buy things, isn’t really the problem. We might do well here to move away from the model of the nasty villain of Easy Street when speaking of – and writing about – material things, for they can operate not merely on the physical, but also on the psychological level in our lives, giving more definite shape to who we are, and who we would like to be.Read More »