It’s been said that America is a very materialistic nation. We work, we consume, and we produce – we also throw away a lot. No, this is not some post about the environment or even a post criticizing the materialism of this nation. This post is about my journey, a layperson (non-clergy), in the secular world while lacking material values.
Yes, we all know money can’t buy happiness, that power corrupts, and that much of the source of greed is from money. So what worth is money? I’ve spent the great part of my adult life shunning money, abhorring it, and frankly not caring to spend a lot, make a lot, and unfortunately not save a lot. So here I am in my 30s, almost mid 30s, with not a lot money, accumulating student debt from graduate school, and midway through a career change into… surprise, surprise: writing.
Growing from a late teen and into my 20s and finally into my early to mid 30s, I’ve focused on nonconforming (the factory of school, work, mortgage, family etc.) and have tried to carve my own niche while searching for truth and the meaning of life and happiness. I can say I’ve found a great deal of it, perhaps not all of it. However, what I also have left is a half-developed career, some degrees of poverty, and decent but desolate lifestyle – one in which I struggle to make ends meet and I’m left jumping from place to place to work that I empty my gas tank quite easily .
So there’s the balance; what’s the solution? I know the Buddha preached the “Middle Way” – a balance between the extremes of asceticism and the luxurious existence of palace life – meanwhile Aristotle and Taoism their own brand of balance and moderation. So perhaps can keep that in mind. I also find that the normal evolution of man involves being self-centered and even selfish in their teens, materialistic and lustful and thoughtless in their young adulthood, more thoughtful in their 30s and 40s, and repenting, contemplating the meaning of life, and full maturing around the age of 50. So where does that leave me? Those are questions I am still trying to reach in my head.
Sure, as a clergyman, you have a temple life and community support that sponsors your work and community activism. There are fewer distractions and you don’t have to worry about paying rent. As a layperson, even one that is devout and sincere in his efforts to achieve the Tao and attain spiritual enlightenment and heck, even alleviate the suffering of others, I still have to worry about the everyday things: dating, paying bills, maintaining the vehicle, social life, relationships and conflicts, work and work life, hobbies, leisure time, and planning vacations from the stress of this lifestyle. So where’s the balance in between that and a more spiritual oriented lifestyle?
Just more questions. There really seems to be no end to searching and finding, perhaps until we die or better yet, when we’ve achieved enlightenment.