Bagged by luxury and materialism

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).

lv-bag.jpg
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, 太奢侈了吧! 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.

2 Comments

  1. it’s so interesting u blogged this!

    just the other day over Vday.. i was having a discussion with my colleagues on like this huge LV craze in HK and apparently in HK too and i was just commenting i don’t know why pp love LV so much that they queue for it coz i honestly, i think the design is quite ‘blah’ and abit or-bit (i mean its like brown and beige checks and the letters L and V and some odd looking flower??). but i think its true, alot of your values come from the pp you hang around with.. peer pressure too..

    i was also saying that in fact i think my bro and i felt abit embarassed when my dad and stepmom bought us some pretty expensive /branded wallets for xmas.. coz from within our circle of friends.. we’d probably be looked upon wierdly if we carried such expensive stuff! But of course we appreciated the thought though :)

    at the same time, for me personally i think i also have to guard myself against the pride of my so called ‘simplicity’ coz sometimes i catch myself making my comments in way that puts down other pp that buys expensive stuff, and i guess the spirit behind the comments i make is also important. going to either extremes is also bad.. pride can manifest itself in many forms.. so have caught myself a few times going the other way of taking ‘pride’ in the simplicity. I still think its a great virtue, but it’s when i put myself in a ‘i’m better than the other camp’ attitude that i realised im in danger of pride myself

    I don’t think your concerns carry that tone though, and i think its great that u were able to ask ur friend to think abt where exactly she is arriving at. it’s a good thought-provoking question and i pray that God will also open her eyes to see the meaningless chase of it all, and for us to be constantly aware of it also! for the fact that she has you as a friend, it is not all hopeless.. perhaps God has put you in her life for a time such as this! :)

    it’s true, it’s so easy to get caught up with the concerns of fleeting things in the world esp when u’re in it. All of us have our areas of weakness, while mine may not necessary be in the area of monetary power, but i know i am weak in other aspects, such as not comparing my worldly achievements with others!:(

    Micah 6:8 – For all of us who have tasted and seen God’s goodness in our lives.. may this be the anchor of our souls and live this everyday! God help us!

    “He has showed you, O man, what is good.
    And what does the LORD require of you?
    To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

  2. Vee, thank you for this great comment!

    You’re absolutely right… false modesty is also pride of a dreadful sort! That is also a concern for me, veering either way is a problem.

    I think that as long as our behaviours are shaped by our concern on how others perceive us, whether it is that we aren’t ‘high-class’ enough OR that we’re not simple and humble enough, we’re still victims of vanity. I think if we truly have solitude in our hearts, we will be detached enough to live as we discern is right, regardless of how we are perceived by others. (I really wish I could do that!)

    Like I mentioned in the post, I don’t think there is anything wrong with branded goods per se. It’s the spirit in which it is acquired and used that makes it a problem or not. Your dad and step-mom’s presents for you and Gary are an expression of their love. If you treat it just as any other wallet, then it would be just like any other wallet! Doesn’t matter how others will perceive you. Besides, for those who know you (like yours truly), I wouldn’t look at you strangely just because of a branded wallet… i know that wallet isn’t a status symbol for you. And afterall the only thing that matters is, He knows.

    :) Thank you dear!

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