Thoughts from an English major and transformative Taurus

I believe that actions speak louder than words, but that's not to underestimate the power of words. I would go so far as to think that changing language - the word, its meaning, or your understanding of it - is an action in itself.

Today's word, inspired by the dreaded activity of moving in: materialism.

Materialism was once a dirty word for me. It brings consumerism to mind, taking pleasure in owning loads of unnecessary objects, all of which take from nature, some of which rob people instead of allowing them to profit. The dirty word materialist doesn't care about that, because shiny toys matter the most. Being raised in a Christian household and having read the gospels as a kid, I grew up with an awareness that the material shouldn't matter. I wasn't ready to give up all my worldly possessions and become a nun, but a longstanding teaching of Christianity is that the spiritual world and the physical world are separate things. The goal is to give up the material in favor of the spiritual. So, when I became an environmentalist, that ethic translated over to living sustainably. Not having piles of stuff in my possession meant I was a good person, having a lot of stuff meant I was a bad person.

I started exploring astrology at an early age too, and I was dismayed to learn that Taurus, my sign, is supposed to be the materialistic sign. That made me mad. Hmmph! I said, What do you know, astrology? You're not science OR religion, you don't get to tell me who I am! But that word got stuck on my mind, and I often felt like I was doomed to be materialistic. Until astrology redeemed itself when I discovered that Taurus is also supposed to be powerfully creative, to the point where a bull, once enlightened, can transform into a butterfly. That's a big change.

So I started thinking of materialism as a good word. I remembered a biblical passage that had confused me as a kid, in which materialists were criticized as people who obsess over trash rather than devoting their lives to God. Since we learned in school that picking up trash was a good thing, I thought it was weird that this passage suggested it was a bad thing. The good materialist values everything. That means instead of being a spendthrift, you spend all the more wisely. It means you can take pleasure in stuff without having it - just appreciate the stuff being sold at stores until there's something worth taking pleasure in buying. Litter makes a good materialist sad because it's degrading to both nature and to the object, which somebody made with their hands or with machines that require hands at some point. Good materialists don't love lots of food, but love rich food and drink that's finely produced by fine people who keep sustainable ethics in mind.

My stepsister, who is also a Taurus, has the same attitude about material things that I do: we absolutely can't stand having too much stuff. This is because we are conscious of every single thing we have. Every pair of socks takes up space in our consciousness, and when we have more than we can keep track of, we actually worry. (Socks have been the bane of my consciousness for a long time.) We're struck with nausea if we fill up trash bags and bring them to the dump. Donating or recycling old things makes us feel a little better, but not if we can't envision every single one of those objects having a productive future. The gifts we appreciate the most are immaterial or have a long history, and a long future ahead of them, of being used. We need everything to have its own space, but hate taking up too much space. We love beauty, art, good food and drink, comfort, books, toys, and games, but loving all that stuff takes thought and energy. We need room in our brains and spirits to fit stuff besides, well, stuff. That's why we get so exhausted at Christmas, which in our family centers around getting lots of unasked for stuff. We're bulls that have developed sensitive antennae. Good materialists.

1 comment:

GreenieJoy said...

I enjoyed reading this post. Being a taurus myself am exactly the same way with regards to throwing stuff away. Even when I sell stuff at yard sales I worry that what is bought isn't going to actually end up getting used and I worry that maybe that person will end up just throwing it away and it makes me sad lol