Thursday, December 31, 2009


“We live in a world of things, and our only connection with them is that we know how to manipulate or consume them.”

Erich Fromm.

What would we give for the smallest of novelty items? Plenty. Even our way of life. Esau gave up his eternal birthright for a meal of red stew—a “trinket” of a meal. These ‘elegant tradables’ make the world run round. How hard is it to get someone to attend a meeting they don’t want to be at? It’s not hard at all. It’s easy. Offer lunch. People generally can’t resist food.

In negotiation terms, an elegant tradable is something that costs you nothing but it buys a lot of good will and even tangible wares.

We live in a very false world, seeking for the main part only to manipulate or consume—and why? Because we cannot stand our own sense of spirituality or to go without. We’d rather go ferreting through a dumpster to sate our overweening desires.

Trinkets both entice us and make the true life evermore elusive, for every time we vie for the trinket over the real things of worth in life we are destined to fall short of anything close to the best on offer for both ourselves and others.

Driven by trinkets we do more and more—and get, for our trouble, less. The old adage, ‘But, wait, there’s more,’ speaks all over this common phenomenon.

Steak knives there are in abundance but no spirituality of soul to be found (generally). Sure, pleasantly, there are exceptions.

What do you want out of life? What do you already have? What is worth the most to you? Chances are, the things that are worth the most to you, the things you can’t put a price on, are not things at all—and they’re certainly not trinkets!

The key truth in Erich Fromm’s quote is when we consider the world of non-things i.e. our relationships and the important people in our lives, we suddenly find the currency of manipulation and consumption is worthless.

It’s like having paper in your wallet when gold is the only thing changing minds and lives.

The only currency of worth in relationships is manifest virtue—a spiritual, totally non-materialistic, non-trinket thing which requires a forged character enshrined in God’s love. This is a character that spots the trinket and walks away quietly laughing to itself. It would never go there. It would never forfeit everything for nothing.

Swapping the only thing of worth—the development opportunities of a moral character of virtue—for a millennia of things that are worth-less should be a no-brainer. But, unfortunately, we all seem bent on having our trinkets.

It’s a challenge for every one of us! Living better with less. We’d all be happier.

© 2009 S. J. Wickham.

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