All One But Not The Same

The potential upside to this depression is that middle-class people (not the elite classes, but most people) are being stripped bare of the illusion that they belong to some happy meritocracy, and that the problems of the lower classes are simply the result of their own bad choices — or worse, bad characters.

Because if that were true, how do they explain why their own suburban manses aren’t worth what they owe? Or why the owners lost their jobs, can’t find another and can no longer define themselves as “good providers”? It’s a lot harder to convince yourself you’re superior when you made all the right “choices” and got screwed, anyway.

There were specific economic strategies on the national and international levels that led us into this mess. Not coincidentally, there was also some kind of mass hypnosis that convinced most people it was sane to use their illusory home equity as an ATM machine.

I don’t blame people for believing that. But they should take a close look at the personal values that encouraged them to do so. Because we’re all connected, and we shouldn’t waste time on the things that promote the illusion of separation.

I’m not sure why I never bought into the idea of a house as soaring investment (and neither did most of my close friends). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done it — and doubled my money when I did. But it always struck me as an enormous scam, like those rent-to-own stores you see in poor neighborhoods that end up charging you $1500 for a $350 flat-screen TV. Why should my house be worth twice as much because I did $5,000 worth of cosmetic improvements? It just doesn’t compute.

No, I think the story behind this is, for lack of a better term, a spiritual crisis. When people aren’t at peace with who they are, they feel the compulsion to individuate, to be special, to stand out in some way. We’re all like this to a degree, but the ones who are chasing status symbols? They’re just plain drunk with lust – lust to convince themselves they’re “somebody.” “I bought this nice house, these nice cars, we remodeled our kitchen, we take trips and stay in expensive hotels — that makes me special.”

No, it doesn’t. It makes you confused. This same confusion encourages people to take on enormous personal debt to attend colleges they can’t afford. Those colleges are far too often a triumph of marketing, and don’t have much inherent value. (Yes, I’m still influenced enough by the marketing to sort of gulp as I write this and ask, “Even Harvard, or Yale?” But then I tell myself, no, not really. The Harvard and Yale graduates are the ones who got us into this mess. Maybe we could use fewer.)

I don’t want to know what you own. I want to know who you are.

After 20 years of genteel near-poverty, I don’t have many illusions about my status. In fact, I don’t really have one. But that gives me the enormous freedom to be who I actually am, and you can’t put a price tag on that.

So while there is enormous economic pain right now, I’m hopeful that at least some people will take advantage of their own personal crises to dive down deep into the center of who they are, and realize the humanity that connects us all.

Love is a temple/ Love is a higher love….

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