Spiritual Comments on Consumerism

Let us begin looking at a core phenomenon in our culture: consumerism. But, let us start by looking at how we internalize consumerism. We can call it, the “merchant mentality.” The merchant mentality is one that seeks to earn something for the self by means of buying and selling. If we are honest with ourselves this is a normal part of our consciousness, if not a large part of our consciousness. How often are we in merchant mode? We are conducting business transactions every single day. If you go to Starbucks and ask for a venti latte and the barista hands you a pile of dust you have a right to be taken aback because you ordered a latte and not a pile of dust. You paid upwards of $5 for your latte and the Starbucks employee is bound to give you one. That’s how business works. It’s supply and demand. We want lattes, Starbucks provides. We encounter many problems, however, when we transfer this mentality to relationships, to church, to prayer. In a sermon on Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple, Meister Eckhart has some sharp words for people he describes as merchants: “people are merchants who shun great sins and would like to be good and do good deeds in God’s honor, such as fasts, vigils, prayers, and similar good deeds of all kinds. They do these things so that our Lord may give them something, or so that God may do something dear to them. All these people are merchants. This is more or less to be understood since they wish to give one thing in return for another. In this way they wish to bargain with our Lord.” He says we use God to get something else, something we want. We treat God like a magic genie who can grant our deepest (and often selfish) desires. Eckhart says that means our desire is off, when we want some-thing (more money, a new car, control over a person or event, to feel good, recognition, or even inner peace) and not the Mystery of God. And, Eckhart is talking about GOOD people, not base sinners. His recommendation? He says, “If you wish to be so completely free of this commercial viewpoint…you should be as empty as the nothing is empty, which is neither here nor there.” Embrace inner nothingness, sink into the indistinct nothingness which is your inner divinity, God in you as your deepest you. Let go all thoughts and feelings, all projects and transactions, all desires and goals, and just rest in God.

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