February 11
The meaning of things
lies not in the things
themselves but in our
attitude towards them.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Today's Meditation:

There seems to be an attitude among people in our societies today that things are what's most important.  They mean more to us than most other elements of our lives.  It isn't a recent trend--it's been around as long as there have been human beings, I'm sure--but it's much stronger now than before because of the amazing intrusiveness of advertising.  Nowadays, we have people constantly telling us on TV, online, and on the radio that the more things we have, the better our lives will be.  And our lives will be especially enriched, of course, if we buy their things.

But things themselves bring nothing to our lives.  They gain meaning only through the meaning that we assign to them.  They are important to us only if we give them importance.  And how important they are also is a result of the ways that we see them.

To me, a new set of markers or an inexpensive mp3 player can bring me as much joy as a brand-new television set or an expensive new coat.  There are many new things in my life that are simply functional, and I never let things become too important to me--I truly want to be able to lose any thing that I have and not have it affect my state of mind or my happiness.  Instead, I want to focus on improving those parts of my life that aren't material--my intellect, my ability to do my job, my relationships, my spirit.  If I let things have too much dominance in my life, then  I neglect those other parts of me that never should be neglected. 

Sometimes we ask ourselves, "what does this mean to me?"  But virtually nothing in our lives has meaning that we don't assign to it--what some see as a disaster, others see as opportunity.  What some see as horrible, others see as challenging.  With things, it's important to keep in mind that they're all meant to be functional, not integral--they're there to make our lives easier or simpler, not to be central parts of our lives.

Questions to consider:

What meanings do you give to things in your life? Are you constantly aware of the fact that you're assigning meaning?

What things in your life might have more meaning than they truly deserve?  How did they achieve that meaning?

Why do we tend to place so much meaning on things?  What other options do we have?

For further thought:

No doubt we would all agree with the sentiment:  “There’s more to life than things.”  Yet much of our lives seem to be spent in the acquisition, maintenance, and disposal of material goods.  Certainly we cannot enjoy the basics of food, shelter, and clothing without a concern for things.  The truly important things of life, however, are those which cannot be encountered by the physical senses, purchased with money, or placed on a shelf.  When we take a look at what we value most in life, we generally find family, friends, health, peace, contentment, laughter, helping others, and communion with God foremost on our list of priorities.



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