Questioning a Life of Consumerism
by Mark Votava
I have always been drawn to simplicity. Having what I needed and not much more is how I have lived all of my life. I have never had large amounts of money. I have learned how to be content in every circumstance and to trust in God as the sustainer of my life.
- Possessions and economic status
This has helped me to learn how to devote myself to my parish. In my local context, I have learned to live with what I need: the basic necessities of food, shelter, clothes and relational connection. My relationships are more important to me than my possessions, my economic status or anything else I may have.
- The cost to simplicity
Sometimes practicing simplicity is painful and there is a cost to it, but I am learning that even this plays a role in the shaping of our lives together. Our imaginations become freer. We have space to be faithfully present in our local context to love, listen, learn, and show empathy. I am learning that simplicity needs to be the priority in our lives if we are to be in genuine relationship with one another.
- Questioning life
As I grew up, I really started to question life and how it works. I began to ask myself, “Why am I doing what I am doing?” I began to think about my motives and priorities. Questioning the pursuit of money and affluence was on my mind a lot.
- How God fits into this
Thinking about how God fits into all of this was hard for me. Sometimes I remember feeling convicted over selfish acts that disregarded God and others. I began to ask, “Why aren’t my motives in life and my priorities becoming more focused on others instead of myself?”
- The importance of putting others first
I wondered what would happen if I embodied this more. I saw that the gospels had many stories and teachings on the importance of putting others first.
- Reevaluating how I used my time
Reevaluating how I used my time became a common practice. Why was I watching so much TV? Why do I need so much stuff? Why am I so obsessed with fashion and being cool?
Why was everything so fast-paced? Why was I investing so much time in a social life with people who are like me and make me feel good? Why was I so into sports, movies and the internet? Why am I so focused on myself to the point of disregarding others?
- Gave away things, changed priorities, and shifted focus
This didn’t seem right to me, and so I started to center my life more on relational simplicity. I gave away things, changed priorities, and shifted focus. I became liberated from the imagination of the empire and started to move more toward the communal imagination.
- Left my job as a teacher
When I first moved to Downtown Tacoma, I left my job as a teacher and took several jobs in the neighborhood where I made less money. This was a move that not many of my friends or family really understood. So I just did it without a lot of support from others.
- Took jobs within walking distance to where I was living
At first, I took a job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. I also worked at a bar as a janitor and then as a parking lot attendant. All these jobs were within walking distance to where I was living in the neighborhood.
- Focusing on the relational context I was in
These jobs helped me to become more faithfully present and integrated in the parish. I developed lots of relationships when I really didn’t know the neighborhood that well. This shaped me tremendously by helping me not to place such a high priority on the narratives of consumerism. Now I could focus on the relational context that I was in.
Do you have a story of simplicity to share?