Indulgence Versus Overindulgence by Tasha Halpert
Stephen plopped another load of catalogs from the postman on the table. “The poor mailman must be tired having to lug all this stuff around,” he said as we prepared to recycle most of them. “I agree,” I said, “And it’s amazing how fast they found us at this address. We’ve only been here a few months and already we’re getting all kinds of stuff from our former address and other places too.” As I glanced at the shiny covers before dropping them into the wastebasket I thought about the catalogs from my childhood.
I remember when the number of catalogs my parents received were few and far between, not the quantities that arrive annually in the mail from October through most of December. For me as a child they were fun to look through and very helpful. My opportunity to shop in actual stores was rare. Young people growing up today have no idea what it might be like to have one car in the family, limits on gasoline, and no malls–only local stores.
Today’s plethora of opportunities for shopping indulgence can easily make for overindulgence. Tempting ads in catalogs, shiny online images of pretty items plus the ease of online shopping–not to mention the heaps of catalogs the postman delivers present would be Santas with a banquet of goods. Credit cards–buy now pay later, make it even easier to spend more than might be wise given one’s resources.
I remember how good I felt a number of years ago when I got my first credit card. Now I didn’t have to wait to buy something; I could have it right away. Prior to this I had to put things I couldn’t afford to pay for immediately on layaway, which meant waiting until the item was paid off to take it home. The opportunities to spend as well as the ease of access to goods makes for a potential for unexpected debt. It is amazing to me how even small purchases add up to a grand total that always seems more than I anticipate.
In addition, while the items in a catalog or online might seem quite wonderful by description, the reality may be quite different. I have all too often been disappointed in the actuality of the gift once it arrived and was opened. This is also true of food from catalogs which often is not nearly as tasty as it appears in the pretty pictures. It is not only easy but also more tempting to be less choosy when one is not putting limits on one’s indulgences.
However, as well as a downside, there is also a good side to this situation. The opportunity to indulge with limits rather than overindulge without them, can present a chance to practice restraint as well as detachment. Life, that marvelous daily Buddha, offers us many opportunities for important spiritual lessons. Reining in the appetite for spending as well as choosing wisely the absolutely perfect single gift can be a marvelous chance for spiritual practice as well as a way to save.