I just returned from my daily pilgrimage to Starbucks (yes, I could do better, but it’s the closest thing to the house), where three fat Americans (but I speak redundantly) were sitting around talking about the Neo-Roman circus known as the Super Bowl, which apparently took place yesterday.
Moments later, two Buddhist monks came walking down the street, right in front of the large windows of the coffee shop.
“Must be nice to live like that,” said Baboon #1. “All they have to do is beg for money and chant. Hummmmmmm, hummmmmmmm.” Baboons #2 and #3 yawped in agreement.
I am not a Buddhist, and I do not know much about Buddhism, but it seems pretty safe to point out a crucial distinction which the booboisie at Starbucks did not get. Yes, the consumer class works long hours, but in many cases it’s to pay for their various distractions—big screen TVs, cars that are three times the size that they need to be, etc. The monks, on the other hand, live a simple life, stripped of those things which they do not consider to be essential. Indeed, in Buddhism the material world is considered to be evil, and they have forsaken it. So when they beg for money (if in fact they do beg for money), they are doing so in order to live a simple life. The truth is that, for all the big screen TVs that the consumers own, the Buddhist monks are probably happier people.
Some will observe this and begin a well-intentioned but dreadfully mistaken tract against capitalism, and even against material goods. This misses the point. The real evil to be dealt with in our society is neither capitalism (would that we actually had a free market rather than mercantilism!) nor even material goods, but rather the consumerist mentality which dominates the contemporary mindset. Capitalism, while it is a function of the metaphysical right to liberty, ultimately has a wax nose, to plagiarize what St. Thomas Aquinas said about reason. It can be used for good or for ill, just like material goods.
The lesson here, then, is that in order for a more virtuous society to exist, men must change. Don’t think for a minute, however, that I think it’s a good idea to try to change other people. Working on oneself is quite enough.
Now, with all this mind, I have decided, years behind the curve, that it’s probably time to get an iPod. Dear reader, tell me: Which one should I buy? How do I know how much memory I need?
 As a side note, one might point out that even the process of begging and giving is a free exchange, perfectly compatible with the ideals of the free market, even if it’s not smiled upon by those who don’t know how much work is enough and how much is too much.
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