Why We Buy

We often buy not to enjoy our purchase or meet a physical need, but to fill a hole in our hearts, a lack in who we are. 

The Christmas season has just ended, and people worldwide have been evaluating the effects of the holiday. Some people do not celebrate Christmas, and so whatever effect the holiday has on them is indirect. A Buddhist in China, for example, may not believe in Jesus Christ, but may be employed manufacturing toys or clothes given as gifts by those who do believe. A Muslim in the Islamic State may hate the very idea of Jesus Christ, but realize that his American and Western foes are less likely to attack him on December 25th. A Western secularist may scoff at Christianity, but still take advantage of Black Friday shopping bargains and deal with holiday traffic. For many in the West, and in other parts of the world, Christmas is a social rather than a religious holiday.

What happens to Christmas gifts? Some presents go back to the store, food gifts are eaten, and a few offerings end up in the trash. Most presents, however, are used, stored, cleaned, and perhaps used again. Years of Christmases, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and other occasions result in a continually growing pile of presents, but gift-giving events are relatively rare and so the pile is modest.

Much more than buying for others, we buy for ourselves. Rarely associated with a specific event, self-shopping empties our pocket books and fills our homes with items of greater or lesser usefulness. Shopping becomes a major form of recreation. We spend our free time in malls rather than in parks. Our closets, shelves, and garages fill up with clothes, computers, and cars, and so we rent storage units. Eventually we buy bigger houses, and still our possessions proliferate. We spend our time buying stuff, sorting stuff, storing stuff, maintaining stuff, moving stuff, and finally disposing of stuff. We own our stuff, but our stuff also owns us.

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