Everyone needs a train book. Mine (at the moment) is Hooked – Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire and the Urge to Consume. I read this today on the C train home while a larger than life bag from Zara’s End-of-Season sale sat between my feet (which were also sporting new digs). I shuttered the thought of the possible hypocrisy that I was casually displaying – but no lesson is grasped immediately (part from that of gravity and breathing under water).
The book brings insight into some of the common spending habits of this country. For example it shares the shocking fact that Americans on average spend
more on garbage bags than 90 of the world’s 210 countries spend ON EVERYTHING. And the fact that we have more shopping malls than high schools. While mass consumerism is a huge element having to do with the book’s main point, it a mere symptom of the larger disease. The disease is called Shenpa.
Shenpa is the pull, the force that causes us to veer from the balance that keeps us focused on the present. Shenpa can be the urge to compare your body to another woman’s (or man’s). Shenpa can be your obsession with having the last word. Shenpa can be the desire to shop when your day goes completely awry – feeling that in the action of buying a new coat, you will be renewed. It is a hook that grabs each one of us, probably a thousand microscopic times a day, consuming us in ways we hardly take notice of.
I can’t rightly sum all of this up for you, as I haven’t yet finished the book. But the concept is something to at least inaugurate curiosity – at least it has in me. I’m now curious to exercise my power over the Shenpa. Over all the little pulls and tugs I feel each day to give into something I think will renew me, or confirm me, or heal me. Things that are essentially made up and ultimately deadly to my spiritual health. All steps towards a balanced life are steps worth struggling to take.
Even at the dawn of a new shopping season.