So there are no misunderstandings later on, I just need to be straight forward about something: I'm not 100% in love with the economy right now. We are on the fritz. I'm serious. I want to kick the economy in the shins. I want to insult the economy's mother. I want to have a party and not invite the economy. If Kanye wants to interrupt the economy's acceptance speech for Suckfest of the Century, I'm okay with that. *steps off soap box*
I don't know about you, but I was pretty miffed when the market began to plummet at an accelerated pace last fall; not particularly anxious or fearful, but definitely annoyed. You were probably right there with me as we watched Wall Street nosedive like a drunken bungee jumper on spring break; we covered one eye and looked down the ravine with the other, muttering with bated breath, "Is it supposed to take this long? I can't see him. Did he fasten the little hooky belay thing?...no, Ponzi fastened it for him. Is he gonna come back up eventually? Has he hit the bottom yet?.... How long is this supposed to take, guys? .... Guys?" But honestly... who needs drunken demonstrations of awful when you have the likes of AIG, Bernie Madoff and the Fed teaching How to Destroy Everything You Touch 101. We all paid over $700 billion for this lesson so we'd better pay attention.
For those of you from the class of 2009... we've been let loose into a job market where we are competing with people twice our age, with twice our experience, for bottom rung entry-level positions typically reserved for inexperienced recent college grads. We're like guppies from a fish tank replete with the plastic trees and the treasure chests and the other fishes from Planet Pets, getting dumped into the Amazon River where there are no little plastic scuba divers or treasure chests... only other, bigger, more experienced, slightly strung out fishes that eat everything... food, boats, trash, you. People with Ph.D's are applying for MI's, for Pete's sake. I applied for an administrative assistant position- along with 800 other applicants. I also applied for a waitressing job at a restaurant that received 50 applications on one day for a single job opening that wasn't even advertised. A friend of mine who just finished his first year of law school last May was explaining the process of applying for internships; they made him jump through flaming hoops (literally... I know, freaky) and wanted everything but his spleen and firstborn. All this to be considered for an unpaid position. As he put it, "I've never had to work so hard to convince someone to let me work for them for free!"
I had a conversation with someone recently about the nature of work, and how discouraging it can be... for many, it seems that no matter how lifeless and pointless our work might seem, it is necessary for survival. We slave away at seemingly menial tasks... filing paperwork, cleaning pools, parking cars, piloting commercial flights, de-paper jamming printers, drawing up contracts and lesson plans, selling, selling, selling... trying to convince everyone that they need what we've got. And if they don't need it... well, they should want it, and they shouldn't be happy until they have it. I quipped that in this light... the light that exposes us chasing after the carrot, baby-stepping to 5 o'clock so that we can go and do the things that we really enjoy but can't get paid to do... in this light, work is almost evil; a curse, the opposite of joy and prosperity and freedom, the abundant life's wicked stepmother. I was being facetious of course, but then I realized... it's kind of true. You know the curse I'm talking about: “Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you shall eat the plants of the field."(Genesis 3:17-18) Certainly it's a bit metaphoric because few of us are working in an agricultural setting anymore (and don't you think that's a shame?), but you get the point. "Life and work are going to be a lot tougher. You'll work longer hours and get fewer returns. Your boss will hound you, you'll kill yourself trying to get that holiday bonus, and your kids will constantly complain that all their friends have Guitar Hero and they don't... and you're ruining their life-uh!" I think that's the Message version.
Before I continue, I should clarify that this is not an indictment of our economic system, because despite current circumstances, the free market economy is the best system ever developed. Unlike Marxism, which is a joke, and mercantilism (think 18th century England and modern China... weighed, measured, and found wanting), capitalism works. Societies thrive because of it. In the best of circumstances - i.e., free of protectionism, interventionism, and alltheotherisms - it benefits all parties involved. But it capitalizes on our wanting more; it is contingent upon our restlessness, our dissatisfaction, our malcontentment. Money isn't the problem... if it were, redistribution would be sufficient. No- LOVE of money is the problem (duh, right?). But contrary to what utopian philosophizers and the communist manifesto would have us believe, no amount of government programs/programming can weed out the greed, because government can't better people. In dealing with the major root issues that actually plague us, people ultimately have only one hope- Jesus. But lets not make that into an argument for theocracy, because that's certainly not what I'm saying. And I'm also not saying that we're on a one way train to Doomsville; after all, necessity is the mother of invention. We are in need, and it is an exciting time to see what entrepreneurial methods of thriving people will come up with as a response to this adversity. But our current situation certainly makes you stop and think.
For my part, I do find that consumerism runs contrary to my intrinsic desire to live simply. Not that I want to be poor. Who wants to be poor? Nuns maybe. If I were to embrace a minimalist mentality, I might say something like "All you need is love"... or "All you need is good food, good music, and good company." I think there are many who feel the same way; certainly many from my generation. I recently had a discussion with a friend at a wedding about this very topic. About priorities and aspirations and the sorts of things that we might find fulfilling. And nothing that we came up with seems to fit the mold of anything that we've seen in contemporary society. We both had the sense that there is something more. Perhaps something previously dismissed as peripheral. I have many older friends and acquaintances who've lived long enough in the American McDream, and are no longer enticed by the house and 2 car garage, regardless of how low mortgage rates are. Now, this American Dream started out nobly enough... everyone with enough to support his family and live comfortably in freedom. That's honest! That's good! God bless those aspirations, for those who desire it.
But I don't quite want that. At least I don't think I do. I want to be unfettered; Suburbia scares me. Of course I'm young and unattached, so I don't have a family to think about; an older, married, mommy version of me might say "All you need is good food, good music, and good company.... and a house and a large savings account, just in case." All of it is intended to create a feeling of security... but security is a notion of human invention, anyway. It isn't found in nature! Of course there is wisdom in financial scrupulousness. But manmade security is a mirage. As the chimp from Babe, Pig in the City would put it: "Its illusory. It's ill, and its for losers." And on the topic of security, other hefty questions come into play. Am I so intently stalking security because I simply don't trust the Lord's provision? When does this fall into the realm of leaning on our my understanding? Someone once told me, "Fear is the antithesis of faith." Well, God went out of His way to say "fear not" 365 times in the Word. How can I help but see this financial meltdown as an opportunity!? An opportunity to approach the throne with more boldness? An opportunity for the Lord to do something big! If God is who I believe Him to be, there is a goldmine of untapped, unfamiliar providence awaiting me on the horizon. It might not be what I am expecting or looking for, (green papery stuff) but He hasn't forgotten me. Any of us. Blessed assurance.
note: I really wanted a compelling image to be placed here... something that would convey fearlessness and faith and stuff. But when I googled "fearless," I was inundated with images of Taylor Swifts cover from her latest album... So for the record I just want to say that I think Beyonce's album cover was the best album cover, and it really deserved to be featured.