Yesterday evening I had a great dinner at Clementi MacDonalds with an old friend; another belated birthday dinner for me. We had a light-hearted and laugh-filled conversation until she decided to show me the new LV bag on her lap which veered our talk to a completely new direction.
She had a $980 bag on her lap. My eyes popped. Oh, and her husband had gotten her another bag at the same time… guess how much it was? I guessed $1,300. No. $2,000? No. $3,000? *incredulous* No. It was $4,000. (In my shock I completely forgot what brand it was… it was something I hadn’t heard before but which is supposedly normally more expensive than Louis Vuitton).
The $980 bag
I was stupefied. $4,980 on 2 bags? Images of the Miele washing machine and dryer I’d been hankering after flashed in my mind as well as the possibly 10 to 15 yrs of clothes it could have washed and dryed to perfection.
I stared across at her and couldn’t help saying, å¤ªå¥¢ä¾ˆäº†å§ï¼ She started talking matter-of-factly about luxury goods, what they represented, that she really liked the bags, and how her colleagues were all in the same game and that this was the world she inhabited, or was trying to inhabit.
This whole luxury goods thing is not new to me of course. I remember a few years ago I saw a program on Singapore TV which had our TCS actresses showing off their branded hand-bags, with Zoe Tay having one $20,000 hand-bag (might have been Birkin I can’t remember). I see this kind of materialism advertised and promoted in magazines, newspapers and it always leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. It’s not just about the ridiculous prices of these fashion accessories, it’s the spirit of vanity that inhabits the world of luxury that makes me uncomfortable.
It’s not what is purchased or how much it costs as much as the spirit in which the thing is purchased. It’s the same as pursuing the 5 Cs… or wanting to have an expensive renovation to showcase one’s abode for the sake of showing off… or possessing some particular thing to let the world know that one has ‘arrived’. I feel like asking, arrive WHERE?
I looked across at her pensively and asked, “Why is all this so important to you? You can’t bring it with you when you die… neither can material things make you really happier.”
We didn’t have much opportunity to continue the conversation as the topic had started too near the end of our dinner date. But I remember the look of mild confusion and discomfort on her face. I couldn’t see my own expression, but I felt a combination of sadness, concern and pensiveness.
It certainly gave me much food for thought for the rest of last night. I started thinking about myself and wondering… what about me? What am I grounded in? Where do my roots lie? Do I have a strong sense of who I am and what my purpose is? Will I be able to hold still in my solitude and not get swept up in the world without realizing?
I know what I want. I want both my feet to be firmly planted on the ground and my heart enveloped in my identity as God’s child. But without vigilance, I am just as likely to get lost without realizing because by nature I’m sensitive to other people’s opinion and I too, like to be ‘well-presented’ to others… I could easily become the proverbial frog that doesn’t realize it is being slowly boiled alive.
Again the question: how does a Christian be in the world but not become of the world? Our hearts must be set on something beyond this world, and this is something we cannot do easily for the world is very distracting and attractive. We must arm ourselves always with prayer, vigilance, and love. It helps to surround ourselves with more people who possess the same values, for a community is stronger than one person.
Ultimately, the understanding that the only important opinion that matters is God’s must descend from my head to my heart and permeate my daily living. I want to be able to become a fool in the world’s eyes for God.
This has been a wake-up call to me because I’ve begun to grow more complacent again in my spiritual life. Thank You, Lord for the nudge. Please help me to follow through on this.