Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

Materialism - Tarnishing Genuine Happiness and The Season of Joy


In the midst of this season of joy take a moment to reflect on what it genuinely means to be joyous. Does joy present itself because we are told it is that time of year, or is joy a state of being and the season is here to reinforce the importance of living a joyous life? This season of giving should be a reminder to children and adult alike that love, selflessness, respect, compassion, empathy and patience are the ultimate gifts we can give to one another. It is our awareness of thought and the emotional characteristics of our humanness that allows the experience of joy. A gesture of kindness, a hug shared, an ear to listen, a shoulder to lean on, a word of comfort, and a meal to nourish, are all joyous moments. The giving of oneself for the betterment of another is an exercise in joyous living. The most enduring, meaningful and memorable moments in life have nothing to do with possessions, but rather the result of the love, tutelage and mentorship one has provided to another.

With the continued onslaught of a digital world, genuine joy is being replaced with the desire for genuine stuff. Materialism is defined as, “a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.” Historically many once great societies destroyed themselves when the priority of material possessions took precedence over the priority of how they conducted themselves as a people. How long have we as an American society been prioritizing things over behavior, and what will our future be? The false joy resulting from the immediate gratification of having abundant stuff deteriorates the amazing quality of what it means to be abundantly human. An element of that amazing quality is our ability to think beyond the here and now by envisioning the potential of what could be. Is that vision for the greater good or for individual desire, for a mutually respectful heterogeneous society or a self-centered homogeneous society? I would hope we would all work toward the greater good and celebrate the wonderment of our differences.

The opportunity to experience joy also rests with recognizing the power of peace in our lives. With conflict there is mental anguish, with peace there is serenity. Joy is rarely experienced when metal anguish abounds. Joy and peace have always been celebrated as universal themes during the holiday season, but the real question is, are we living those themes and promoting them each day? Simplicity contributes to the establishment of joy and peace in our lives. Materialism creates complexity and counters simplicity because there is more stuff to be responsible for, and therefore an added element of stress to contend with. In reality, an obsession with acquiring excess stuff is in many ways a substitute for not dealing with oneself, and the real important personal issues that stand in the way of obtaining genuine happiness, peace and joy.

Love is a word used consistently in regard to relationships but what does it truly mean to love? This month many celebrate the birth of a man whose love for others is an example that has stood the test of time. Did materialism have anything to do with that legacy? On the contrary, it was just the opposite of possessions that defined a life of love through giving, selflessness, forgiveness, and sacrifice. What is your capability to love another based on, and how is that love best demonstrated? Is it through the material stuff we give, or the selfless acts of kindness, empathy and thoughtfulness we provide to those we share our life with. During this season of joy, peace, and love let us all make an effort to display these ideals beyond December and throughout our entire life. I believe now more than ever there is a prominent need to renew our commitment to one another as a principled people, and not as principled shoppers. During these two spiritual holidays, celebrate the birth of a savior and the festival of lights, with an added effort in setting an example in what truly represents this season of joy. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to all my fellow citizens, friends, and lovers of life. May we all be blessed in a spirit of human goodness.  

Friday, August 07, 2020

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