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Friday, February 29, 2008

Build Up the Love Inside

The children's market is worth an estimated £30bn a yearI wasn't really shocked by the the news that a UK inquiry into contemporary childhood trends reveal 89% of all adults polled fear children are being "damaged" by materialism. The children's market is worth an estimated £30bn a year.

Even as a child, I never accumulated a lot of "stuff". Owning the latest piece of fashionable item accessory never interested me, but I can appreciate maybe my childhood, though not from a distant past, has become of a distant time. The only thing I genuinely collected as a child was books, and to an extent the only thing I truly "own" now is a somewhat extensive library that makes me feel guilty when I think of all the trees that were felled to make them. Sounds ludicrously innocent if we were to compare that say to the bedroom of one of my younger nephews; it has all the latest consoles and media that amounts to thousands of pounds.

We of course need to make use of and know about the latest technology out there. Technology is an interest of mine, and I'm constantly updating myself on what's new out in the market. When I sit down with my nephews (which sadly isn't as often as we would like), not only do we critique the new games and consoles they've stacked up in their cupboards, we have a great time playing them, too. But we have better times during our trips outside, or when we exercise together, or when we just talk and communicate via minds, not virtual manoeuvres.

First Fill the Heart

My grandmother, whom as I a child I secretly imagined came from a long line of Ottoman princesses, never spoke her presence with material things. It was the gold of her character, her actions in words and deeds that dazzled everyone that came into contact with her. She taught me that if you develop the body you do so for the quality of your time on this world, if you develop the spirit you do so for the quality of your time in an everlasting one. Do both and you have the best of both worlds. However, if you spend time merely developing your material wealth and do neither, you won't have the best of anything but illusions.

Today, it is not my grandmother's financial wealth that speaks to me, so many years after her death, it is those memories we made together that still enrich me. She taught me that a truly rich man can dine with equal pleasure at the grandest feast or the most humble table, for the stomach never complains when the heart is really full.

No Simple Life

I don't want to worry the capitalists out there. I'm not attacking the world's social order, or arguing we should go back to the primitive bartering system of the Phoenicians. We have to keep ourselves up to date and stay in touch with our time. This post isn't advocating a "simple life" for those of us out there addicted to accumulating things; I'm simply wondering whether shifting our mindset slightly to see beyond that wouldn't be an advancement to our humanity.

When society calculates human worth by physical things: a cosmetic face, a full wallet, an expensive car, top of the range equipment, it's difficult not to want them and boost our public value. When others weigh us in measurements of hard currency, I appreciate the difficulty some of us have in realising our own worth. We hope that by outwardly raising our market price, we may be worth more to ourselves inside. Then we get confused when cold, hard, lifeless things that we try to breathe a soul into, end up making us seem soulless, instead.

Having dreams and working hard to achieve them is what gives our souls purpose. Hard labour, and the worthy sweat that waters the fruits of that labour, is a necessary ingredient of our lives. But it seems a waste of my life to make the purpose of my time here to be about financial gain.

And do we want to put our children on this dizzying merry-go-round of constant attainment of material things, with no safety harness at all?

Teach the Children

We need to teach our children skills that will help them strike a workable balance, how to be part of our society and part of our humanity, too. Gadgets are for fun, nothing more. Money is a measurement of value, it doesn't give us value. Banking knowledge and worthwhile memories is what we'll need to draw on during rainy days, not simply saving up the hard-earned pennies.

At times it might sound like we're spinning tales from a Christmas story - and it's moot whether they'll believe it or not while growing up due to peer pressure or society's demands - but it will be always be worthwhile to teach our children that the only thing worth keeping or accumulating is the commodity of love.

We must lay the foundation early so that we all realise the only thing which truly matters is the amount of love we build up; that's the only currency we can spend on our final day.

The love inside is the only thing that stays with us when we die and speaks for us to those we leave behind.

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