In the unremitting getting of our hedonistic society, we rarely pause to question why we must go about acquiring without end. It is as though some force impels us toward an inevitable end. Even those who do stop to wonder often feel powerless against this great tide of “getting and spending.” As Wordsworth said, we “lay waste our powers” for something that I venture we do not comprehend nor even desire. As I watch Christmas shoppers, I am reminded of this senseless attitude of needing and wanting more. Have we lost control of ourselves and our situation such that we can no longer distinguish between need and want? Those two words have become almost inextricably linked, to our own detriment. In the end, I think that “want” and “need” are subjective terms, being defined individually and circumstantially. However, I think that if we all took time to examine our lives, we would find that we quite frequently confuse want with need and that, in reality, we have much more than we need. For about a year, I scrutinized all of my desires in an effort to determine whether they were things that I truly needed or things that I just wanted. I did not allow myself - or my generous mother - to buy me anything that fell within the “want” category. It was amazing how free and in control I felt simply because I was not laden and hedged up by my supposed needs.
Many people believe (whether consciously or subconsciously) that having more will bring more happiness. Yet I think that it is quite the opposite. I am not proposing that we all deprive ourselves of every material blessing; I think that God intends us to enjoy what He has given us. But I think that often we get so caught up in “getting and spending” that we have no time to be happy or to do things that will make us happy. The very things we hope will bring us happiness are the impediments to that end. In War and Peace, Pierre is taken captive by French soldiers. In this time of deprivation where he suffers filth, lice, lack of food, no home or fancy balls, no shoes, and sores all over his feet, he finds the “calmness and contentment that he had before vainly striven to attain.” Seeking for happiness and contentment, he had filled his life with vain and even nefarious endeavors. He did not realize that happiness is effected within, not without. “Pierre was made aware… that man is created for happiness, that happiness lies in himself, in the satisfaction of the simple needs of living, and that all unhappiness arises not from lack but from superfluity.”