By FR. ROLANDO V. DELA ROSA, OP
For many people, a happy Christmas means an abundant Christmas. Brainwashed by advertisers and market charlatans, they prepare for this important celebration by transforming their houses into a display room of colorful lights, lanterns, poinsettias, wreaths, paper angels, bells, Santa Claus, and Christmas trees groaning under the weight of glittering ornaments. Malls and discount shops endlessly proclaim: “Buy more to own more; owning more means being more!” Many are hypnotized by this seductive come-on because society tends to measure a person’s social status by what he owns.
But this may not be for long. A growing trend is developing, especially among young people. For them, status is built not by owning things, but by having access to what they want and need.
As one young student says: “It’s easier for us to get what we need and when we need it, not by actually buying and owning it, but by simply having access to a vast range of goods or services that provide us what we need.”
My nephew follows this new trend and he seems content and happy. For him, abundance is a state of mind. His room was once adorned with cabinets filled with books, CDs, DVDs, and many electronic gadgets. Now his room is practically bare after he sold all those. He doesn’t even have a television set. His most expensive possessions are a laptop and his mobile phone. He said: “I no longer need those CDs and DVDs. I just subscribe to Netflix and other sites that provide free downloads of my favorite movies. As for music, I use Spotify, and instead of books, I use Kindle.”
Is he not afraid that all these would disappear if he didn’t keep up his subscription payments? He said: “In fact, I feel more in control now. I am no longer pressured to accumulate DVDs of the latest box office hits or CDs of songs in the top charts. I have digital copies of these that I can use on whatever device, wherever I want. When I travel, there’s more space in my luggage.”
Many young people also find it unnecessary to own a car. There are now many services that offer a comfortable and safe ride wherever they want to go. And these also function well as delivery services. They don’t need to shop at malls and groceries. Foods and goods can be delivered to them at home by just using express delivery apps in their mobile phones.
Hopefully, this trend would develop in us a new kind of relationship with goods and wealth—a relationship that is no longer defined by ownership, but by accessibility. It will also develop in us the habit of putting our trust, not in goods that we think we want, but in those who provide access to what we really need. Also, we begin to see the importance, not of things, but of services. We realize that the best things in life are not things but relationships.
We accumulate and hoard things we don’t actually need. But we can learn from St. Augustine, a man of great talents and sufficient wealth, who realized that his possessions had made him a sad and miserable person. He was always afraid of losing what he had. Only after his conversion did he say with conviction: “It is better to need less than to have much.”