Monday, October 03, 2005


Like all good upscale rednecks, I love ebay. Who'd have thunk that people would buy up all my old junk-- junk that my hubby has been begging me for months to give up. I was a hoarder, and letting go of things (clothes, knick-knacks, past hurts, grudges, and the like) has never been my forte. Ebay sure has turned my life around! After that first round of stuff went for a good bit more than I expected, I couldn't wait to get home to see what I could get rid of next. "Who are you, and where did you put the hoarder I used to be married to?" he asks. Frankly, it's a mystery to me, too.

So, I've begun acquiring things... Family say things like, "I hear you sell on eBay. I have about 300 old records in jackets I've been wanting to get rid of. If I give you 50% of the take, will you sell them for me online?" Ahhhhhhhhh... another fix for my addiction. Sure, I can sell them.

Now, I'm sitting at my computer with a pile of records-- Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Marian Anderson, old RCA Victor albums that are as heavy as bricks-- and I have no idea what to expect from them. It's hard to assign arbitrary value to something whose value is so clearly subjective to begin with. Or is it?

Our society is whacked out when it comes to how we value things and people. We pay top dollar for gas-guzzling uber-SUVs, but we won't pay for technologies to make cars less gas-guzzly. We pay movie stars bazillions of dollars for prancing around for a few months, being cute, hitting the talk shows to promote their latest flick (because we all know that hype sells better than artistic integrity); and yet we pay the people who take care of our children-- our lives, our legacies, our nation's most precious resource-- the smallest amount to which they'll agree. We complain that the cost of living is killing us, and yet some ya-hoo somewhere pays thousands for a piece of toast that looks like the Virgin Mary. [Note to self: patent a wafflemaker that mass-produces religious images ASAP.]

We don't get value any more than we get how to really get along. It just seems to be beyond us. When so many people allow themselves to be so easily swayed by popular culture and media hype, the capitalist thing to do is take advantage of the stupidity of the masses. We offer ourselves up willingly as consumers of frivolity, and then complain that life's meaning seems so vague and empty. Go figure.

I did an exercise with my youth group, back when I was a youth director. It went a little something like this. Get a handful of paper cups, and label each cup with something you spend time on each week. One cup might say "sleep;" another might say "internet." Other cups might represent school, work, friends, family, prayer, hobbies, TV... You get the picture. Then take 168 pennies-- these represent the number of hours you have in each week. Now put into each cup as many pennies as the number of hours you spend on that activity in an average week. After you've placed all your pennies, line up your cups from highest to lowest numbers of pennies. Are they now in order of your priorities and values? If not, why not?

Let's just say it was a pretty depressing exercise then, and probably still would be for me if I were to do it again today. It's just not in our society's makeup to give the most time and value to those things that truly mean the most to us. Sad, really. Not that I'm doing it right, but at least I recognize how much better I could do. At least I'm trying.

I went to a little rinky dink fall festival on Saturday-- you know, the kind of festival where the directions say, "Take Hwy 25 to Ware Shoals. You'll see us when you get into town." We rode the "Trackless Train" driven by the freaky carnie-type guy. We played "Hillbilly Skeeball" with tennis balls on a homemade plywood game table. We listened to what has to be the most awful gospel band I've ever heard. And we had the most wonderful time together as a family. I didn't earn any money, win any awards, or make any headlines, but the memories made and time together was worth far more to me and to my children than anything else I could have done with a Saturday afternoon. The value to me could not have been higher.

So, I guess to someone, somewhere, my Statesman Quartet album will be worth a buck or two. And that's alright, as far as I'm concerned. It's all about priorities.

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