Recently, a neighbor, with a house about the same size as ours, asked me how many television sets we had. "One," I replied.
"Only one?! We have five!"
"Why?" I wanted to know. "Do you have multiple wives? I know your family is long grown and flown away...."
He laughed, then asked how many computers we had, and when I said "one," he was floored, as if I had just emerged from a cave.
Why do two married adults living in one house need 5 TVs? Has the quality of programming improved since I last checked in with the major networks? I can see the usefulness of having 2 TVs, and I know how hard it can be to find time to use the computer since my wife, Lynn, is also a writer...But we work around each other. We make do. We share.
I am not a miser and I don't think of our lifestyle is especially frugal, but we are not big on gadgets or on having the latest and fastest tech devices: our lives have always moved more slowly.
I wanted to ask my friend if he knew the book by E. F. Schumacher, "Small is Beautiful" or any of the many other more recent books and articles that advocate simplifying our lives and saving both money and the planet. I wanted to mention the needs of the world, where many people make do with no electronic equipment and where sharing is a given.
But then I would sound sanctimonious, and I probably do in what I have just written. My neighbor's questions and reactions amused me at first, then led me to think about the temptation to isolate oneself behind a TV or computer screen, foregoing conversation and communal living. What we do in microcosm, multiplied by millions, has to have some effect on the macrocosm of society and the world.
And it satisfies something in my soul to say No to the consumerist culture, which values people's lives by the money, cars, and things they have. No wonder some people hate Christmas.