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An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.
Sorting out what has lasting value from hyperbole has not been made easy. The world that we function in requires choosing values of substance vs. values of convenience, because what we do and how we conduct our lives matters. One has only to reflect on the state of the world in economic chaos, or political systems in disarray, to get a vivid picture of the poor choices that have been made. It is understandable that we have lost sight of what is valuable and what has enduring quality, as we became disciples of a disposable, throwaway mentality. Didn’t we know that relationships abandoned, friendships lost, ideals and principles forsaken had profound consequences?
Our complacency allowed the forgotten lessons of the past to re-emerge and harm us. We had turned a deaf ear toward those students of history who reminded us of the perils faced after 1929 and the lessons learned. We magnified the voices of greed and self indulgence while drowning the monotonous lilt of the voices we did not wish to acknowledge. Those who questioned our lack of historical perspective followed a familiar refrain — you don’t understand, these are different times or best of all, this is a new paradigm. In other words, if you don’t buy the snake oil, your grasp on reality is impaired!
We dutifully queued up and willingly embraced this valueless construct with little thought or reflection. Planned obsolescence, this elixir’s main ingredient, was to reassign our value system. We had been misguided it appeared. We had it backwards and upside down. This insidious credo transformed our thinking by promulgating the idea that form over function, style over substance would be the foundation for our new system of values. This may well be the onset of the disposable mentality we currently embrace. The automobile industry is one of the more visible violators that has promoted the idea of value substitution. They had forgotten the resourcefulness that once had been their genesis. Henry Ford, when ordering machined parts from his vendors, would specify the exact dimensions for the crates in which they were to be delivered — down to the type of screws that would be used and the location of the screw holes. Instead of throwaway pallets, these crates along with their brass screw counterpart would become the floor boards of the Model T. Today’s business model would have disposed of the oak boards, sold the the brass screws as scrap, and added nothing of value to the original product. If you ever wondered what the corporate mantra of squeeze the banana means, now you know.
What happened to frugality as a virtue and excess as a sin? When did we adopt the notion that everything is disposable; relationships, values, and all the things that really matter? We were blinded by the idea that replacing things and people in our lives was easier than fixing them. When a relationship develops in conflict, dispose of the relationship, and engage a new one seemingly free of conflict. How did we allow ourselves to be stripped of our traditional virtues?
One hopes that there is something of worth to come out of these uncertain times. We may learn the value of the shoe repair shop that has been hanging on by a thread, the lighter that can be refilled, the lawn we must now care for. Those qualities that our parents knew were valuable and that we are now beginning to appreciate.
If you’ve not seen or heard George Carlin, you’ve missed out on a fertile mind. George created a routine that demonstrates today’s mindset entitled Stuff. The skit is a parody of how we are driven to accumulate things. Not for their value, nor their worth — just stuff. In many ways, it’s a parody of life in today’s material world.
Perhaps nature has some internal compass designed to correct our course when we stray too far. Leading us back to that place where moderation trumps excess and greed. Best hang on, the journey back to reality may prove uncomfortable.
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