As the recession drags on and charities, the arts and houses of worship struggle to find financial support, I think of all the money we burned during the “good times.” Houses and cars bigger or newer than we needed. Giant-screened TVs and all sorts of other electronic toys that tie into the whole entertainment space. Dozens of more pairs of shoes than we could possibly wear in a single year. Eating out several times per week. The list seems endless, as did our appetite for the spoils of a consumer and marketing culture that offered no boundaries and had every just-in-time product we could imagine to distract us from grappling with our own internal voids.
Now, as money is painfully tight or not there at all for some and the government addresses it by piling up debt that will burden my grandchildren, the organizations and endeavors that often give the most meaning to life and serve those in greatest need are suffering because of what we did not invest beforehand. How much more vibrant could that downtown art museum; little church on the corner; non-profit that provides scholarships or after school tutoring programs for inner city kids; or community theater be had we been investing all along a larger chunk of the discretionary income (or credit even!) that we blew on the junk culture?
It makes me angry, I must admit, both at the opportunities I might have missed to contribute more and our collective malady of not spending our time, thoughts and money on things that matter the most to the mind, body and spirit.
Now that the Economist and Engineer motifs (aptly described by Peter Block in The Answer to How is Yes) have had their long dance upon the stage and left us in shambles, it is time for the Artists and Social Architects to rise in prominence. We must begin and deepen dialogue on things that matter for ourselves, our families, our communities, our institutions. Dialogue must lead to a healthy, diversity-driven investment of time, talent and resources into the entities that enable us to live authentically with one another rather than propagate artificial lifestyles and nurse our wounds with commodities. The dialogue begins with each of us today, wherever we are in whatever sphere of influence we happen to occupy.