An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
There's an old 77's song that many of you are likely familiar with called "The lust, the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life." It's a fantastic song because it very accurately diagnoses the essence of the human problem. One line of the song goes like this:
well I see something and i want it bam! right now no questions asked don't worry how much it costs me now or later I want it and I want it fast I'll go to any lengths sacrifice all that I already have and all that I might get just to get something more that I don't need and Lord please don't ask me what for
While I know that I have in my heart said these things (and acted in accord with them), I'm fairly certain that we as a people and a nation have also both individually and collectively said and acted in accord with them. Really a wonderful icon of the passions may be seen in an image of someone maxing out a high interest credit card in order to buy a Wii, knowing full well they will over time pay many times what the device is worth in order to have it RIGHT NOW. Or worse yet, that they will declare bankruptcy and foist the debt upon others.
I quite accidentally stumbled upon a documentary recently called "I.O.U.S.A." and it is a documentary that ought to scare us. In essence it suggested to me that the "77's" song might be considered as a replacement to our national anthem. Like far to many individuals, the government simply has not even tried to be fiscally responsible and has instead promised us the world for free. And we believe them and elect them. There's no end in sight to that self-destructive cycle...what moral grounding will ever act as a leash to reign in our collective desire to be overfed and to never sacrifice for whatever feeding we do get.
Unfortunately the film was made before the culmination of our current nightmare where we've opted to go further into debt than ever before as a means of trying to solve our already massive debt problem. The economic reality alas I think, is begging for a very serious and painful adjustment that no one wants and everyone is apparently convinced we needn't suffer. And the politicians make their promises in strict accordance to our itching ears.
I've seen enough documentaries (ala Michael Moore) to know that they are often in dire need of some balance, I really think that a debate format for a documentary would be profoundly more informative, rather than having to sit through a highly nuanced media lecture from one person and their opinions. But, this said, I still think the film is worth seeing and has many undeniable points. I don't think any of us can reasonably disagree with the reality that our lavish lifestyle is largely being maintained by debt. It is, quite simply, a facade. One that may be falling down at the moment.
I'm not sure that trying to prop it up with more debt is the way to solve anything. I worry that we are just postponing the inevitable?
Additionally, I sometimes I wonder about the popular notion that posits: "These days in order to maintain the same lifestyle as our parents, we are forced to have two income homes." For some people this is probably completely true, but I'm not at all convinced that it is an overall truth that is reflective of a fundamental change in our economy, except that we see today a vastly larger market of STUFF ("must haves") out there and a vastly larger appetite for it all. Think about the vast array of things that we "must have" today, for which our parents at our age had absolutely no concept. For many of us, when we wished for some form of entertainment we'd be given a $10 football; not a $300 XBOX. We had no need for $100/month cable TV or $65/month high speed internet or $150/month cell phone service or an ungodly amount of money for the cornucopia of kids' expensive extra-curricular activities that somehow I - as a kid - managed without. Tag on a dozen smaller "services" like Netflix and soon enough you've got a tremendous amount of resources going out the door that our parents never had to worry about. So, we add a second income and you suddenly add even more expensive costs: daycare, pre-prepared foods, dining out, extra vehicle or at least extra maintenance and gas. And, absolutely no time is left available for much of anything...all the luxuries in the known world serve us and we STILL seem to have no free time - at least that we can perceive. It all becomes another vicious cycle out of which we can see no escape. I note this as an example of how we have largely overextended ourselves...all of us. Can we even imagine our lives without the comforts of our new and ever improving iPODS, iPhones, TV's, Internet, etc etc? We talk about tightening our belts, but have we known anyone ever to do it unless they absolutely had to do so? For instance if someone's budget had to suddenly give up something, would they typically choose their Cable TV or their scheduled savings deposit for their retirement? As the documentary showed, precious few American's save money anymore - why should they? We have Social Security and Medicare coming to us, right? I hold myself out there as an example of a slowly recovering economiholic.
It's profoundly easy to look at AIG bonuses and cry foul. Harder to look with judgment at a woman paying for her groceries with a welfare debit card (money as much ours as AIG's money is ours - or China's, from whom we borrowed it) while listening to an iPOD that many of us who pay for our own food cannot afford. And harder still to look at our own checkbooks and prioritize with a truly purified mind. Perhaps too hard.
Well...we could just sit back and listen to the 77's.