By Mia Brounstein
If you are anywhere on social media, you are probably at least distantly aware of the craze currently surrounding Stanley cups. Special editions of these colorful water bottles (or blunt force weapons, depending on who you ask) have caused people across the country to line up outside of department stores overnight and/or get in violent altercations with strangers who snatched a cup too many off the shelf.
The media is also abuzz with stories of pre-teens going on rampages in makeup stores and racking up hundreds of dollars of products on their parents’ credit cards.
It’s a depressing time to be a consumer living in a consumerist society.
It’s difficult to escape not only seeing this kind of brand-driven mania, but also being victim to it. We see friends, coworkers and peers dressed a certain way, carrying certain electronics, living in certain places and eating at certain restaurants, and we are envious.
We are angry, anxious and divided over brands that couldn’t care less whether we lived or died. We pour out our money like sand for material goods or lifestyle accessories that will very soon drift out of vogue and be discarded by us in favor of something new.
Now, if you’ve gotten this far in the letter, you’ve probably adopted the same attitude that I took on when I first heard about these situations: it’s a real shame that this sort of thing is happening in the secular culture, but thank goodness I’m at a place like Franciscan! Thank goodness we Catholics recognize that there is more to life than material goods!
Now of course Franciscan is a good place and it’s equally good that we are aware of the Catholic Church’s teaching on earthly distractions. But, in our own way, most of us here at Franciscan are also victims of reducing ourselves and others to clothing, lifestyle, social media presence, etc.
It is all too easy for us to judge our peers based only on what we see and how it measures up to the standards set by social media and secular society. Similarly, many of us spend significant energy ensuring that we are differentiated from the people that we consider to be backwards or different from us.
It should go without saying that this is no way to live, dehumanizing our neighbors and spiraling into anxiety over how cool, good-looking, trendy or interesting we can afford to be. In the interest of sincerely loving those around us and maintaining our own peace, I think it’s time to break away from the iron grip of worldly consumerism.
So, with Lent fast approaching, I personally hope to take the season of repentance as an opportunity to move away from this fixation on material goods. I can fast from unnecessary spending, give up judging others based on their possessions and ask God for the grace to see myself in my real identity, something that is far distant from the brand name on my water bottle.