My garage was a temple to Mammon. One wall was completely filled with the most comprehensive movie collection a man could wish for – an alphabetised shrine to cinema, containing DVDs of the greatest films ever made (and Transformers). Not only DVDs – two-disc special edition DVDs. Limited edition collectors tin DVDs. Fold-out-Optimus-Prime-figure-edition DVDs.
I don’t think I’ve ever put the second disc from a two-disc special edition into my DVD player. But I’ve bought 100s of the things. Why?Because the marketing draws me in – like popcorn sizing that promises so much more for a modest price increase – and every time it does, it strengthens the hold of materialism in my life. So while I didn’t watch them, I enjoyed the shiny packaging – the sense of having obtained great possessions. Often I would walk into my garage, like some very rubbish version of Alexander the Great, and survey all that I had conquered (from HMV).
A few years ago, I started exploring the Spiritual Disciplines, one of which is Simplicity. Practicing Simplicity requires us to ask three questions of ourselves: a) where should I do less, b) where should I have less, and c) using the space created by the first two, what should I do more? We practice Simplicity in order to rebalance our lives – to work out where we’re badly investing our time or resources, or where our ‘stuff’ or our busyness is getting in the way of the important things in life: time with God, friends, family; resting, and feeding the soul.
God spoke very clearly to me as I tried to work out how to practice this discipline. The wall of DVDs had to go. So – very painfully – I sat one night and disassembled my collection. The films themselves – the good ones at least – went into a plain library folder to keep; the shiny boxes went into black bin liners. And all those disc twos – the things I’d paid an extra five pounds for just to make me feel smug? They went into the black bags too. I tossed the whole lot into the council tip – and as I did so, I felt an enormous sense of freedom.
This week then, we’re going to practice the discipline of Simplicity together, and focus on that second question: where should I have less? And to that end, here’s the challenge:
15: Get rid of something you want, but don’t need.
Identify one possession (or more) which you like, but isn’t actually vital to you. Don’t choose something of great sentimental value – rather find something of material worth which is hard for you to give away, but which you don’t really need. If you want to take that a stage further, see if you can choose something which actually gets in the way of your relationship with God and others – but it doesn’t need to be that complicated. Perhaps you simply want to get rid of something in order to say: ‘I own my material possessions – not the other way around.’
It’s up to you how you dispose of your possession – but I’d suggest that this offers a perfect opportunity to also practice generosity – so you could give it to a friend or to a charity shop, or sell it on ebay and give the proceeds away.
If the challenge seems too easy, make it more difficult. The act of giving up should hurt a little; the resulting sense of liberation will more than compensate.
Take that, materialism!