Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A New Computer and Consumerism

I am trying to avoid being a consumer. I'm fighting an uphill battle against a horde of skilled marketing people. They attempt to create an emptiness within me (promising the product they sell will fill that need) while I am trying to nurture an inner peace and contentment.

In order to avoid being a spiritually restless consumer, I am creating my own "needs testing" for determining when to purchase something. Actually that sounds much more analytical than it is. I don't have some formal test, but I do have to question my spending from a spiritual standpoint.

There is no doubt that this is spiritual - through and through. The subject at hand for me right now is a new computer. I have a trusty iMac at home that we bought in 1999 when we returned from Africa.

I am a bit of a Mac fanatic, but the reality is that it runs great. I've never had a harddrive crash, we receive and send email, the kids do their papers on it, and it surfs the internet on a DSL connection just fine - surprisingly well for a 233 mhz antique.

I know that many might think I am nuts for thinking that purchasing a new computer is a spiritual matter. I've got news for them - it is.

The fact that it is a bigger expenditure than buying a new toothbrush isn't what makes it a faith-issue. Buying a toothbrush is a spiritual matter too. The reason I don't think as much about a new toothbrush is that there isn't fleshly lust involved in what toothbrush I use - but it enters into the computer thing.

I get a new toothbrush when the old one wears out. I'm not giving in to some consumeristic mania when it comes to dental hygiene - but I am susceptible to doing that when it comes to computers. That is why I have to be more careful about this decision.

Do I wait for my iMac to give up the ghost (that might be a lot longer than I want to wait - but maybe that is revealing)? When does it become reasonable to spend a year's wages for a third-world working man on a new computer? When I do replace my old Mac, how much should I spend?

I am forming some answers . . . for me, not anyone else. I have no compelling reason right now to buy a new computer other than desire. That just isn't good enough for my walk with Christ. So I'm not buying now. In my thinking, having a computer is a part of living life in the place where I am - so someday I will buy another one. It will be perhaps later this year. I need to pray more and want one less, I think.

Perhaps there are spiritual disciplines to preparing ourselves to acquire things we desire. If I want something too strongly, then something is wrong. This is where I come back to the consumer world around us. When someone with a vested interest in me spending money to buy his product is urging me to make purchases, I need to be wary. Maybe my desires have been too influenced. Let me turn my desire back to God. To want God and only God. That is the correct posture for my faith.

None of the this is new - I'm sure Peter had to think about whether to buy a new net or simply repair the old one.


Ken said...

Thanks for the thoughts.....I have a great deal of spiritual discipline that still needs to develop here- appreciate you giving me some things to think through as I seek to be more faithful in a /see it/buy it/get another/Look at my stuff/ culture I am immersed in.

Kevin said...

thanks for your words...I have been coveting an iPod for months, trying to find some good rationalization for why the Kingdom of God would be better off with me as a steward of the Apple innovation. As much as I try to escape it, the culture of consumeristic mania is not all outside of me.

mh said...

My wife and I started with a little webtv unit. We had just found out that our child had Cerebral Palsy...and were desperate to connect with others who might be going through the same thing.

Six years later...I am posting this from a computer my wife built for us.

She now uses what she has learned to work on the computers of family and friends...for free.

When I sit at this computer, I think of the love my wife has for me...wanting me to be able connect with other believers across the globe...moving beyond our situation and circumstance.

I recently asked her, "How hard would it be to build a 'laptop'?" "Don't even go there...!", she repied.