I keep hearing that the credit bubble and the cash bubble are still going to pop. When that happens, this country will experience an economic disaster of Great Depression proportions. Materialism will finally be seen for what it is – an impermanent set of values that can’t sustain happiness. Even though the sluggish economy is making many people re-evaluate their lifestyles, many have no idea how to replace a fancy car, big house and European vacation with the gifts around them.
In recent weeks, I’ve been doing one of the scariest things an American can do. I’ve been free falling without a “real job.” That “real job” thing is defined in materialist standards. Suddenly, I’m “self employed,” which means I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m writing. I’m making a go as a freelance writer, and it has opened my days in a way I haven’t experienced in years. I really don’t carry any debt except for my mortgage, so the credit bubble isn’t a concern. I’ve always been one who tried to live within her means. I’ve never been one to have what anyone would call extraordinary income. Just the middle class stuff. As I free fall, I don’t think a cash bubble will matter either. In fact, I know I’ll be better prepared than the majority when it all comes crashing down.
Never mind cars, houses, and those high priority necessities. Let’s think about the things that give us joy. In my opinion, that’s how these bubble got blown up in the first place. Who ever said that the most amazing thing we’d ever see in our homes was HDTV? Personally, I find it much cheaper and much richer to walk outside and watch the trees sway in the wind. The sound, the smell, and the power of something as innocuous as air is about as real as it gets. The color of sunset over a hayfield is so much more subtle than any television screen. In this sluggish economy, I can afford a lifetime of sunsets without ever swiping a credit card.
How about a phone call from an old friend? So much more inspiring and joyful than my last cruise. I remember those meaningful conversations much longer than I remember the Lido Deck. I recently ran into a musician associate from graduate school. I could remember how he’d tear the skin off the tips of his fingers as he played the upright bass in a Rockabilly band. He was amazed that I recalled that. I wasn’t. As insignificant as that was to most fans, it meant something to me because it was like a tiny opening into the greater passion that makes him human. Didn’t cost nearly as much as a new iPod.
In fact, this whole bubble thing is really confusing to me. The word “bubble” automatically registers an image of huge, soapy, iridescent spheres bouncing across the evening air at the Kerrville Folk Festival. A place where deep memories and deep friendships have been forged. A place where I’ve written some of my greatest songs. Never made much money with those songs. Doesn’t matter. What little cash I had was used up, and I was only left with fond memories. I’m so glad it turned out that way.
At a time when I should be panicking because the news pundits and business community say I should, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I drive an old Ford F150 that doesn’t have power locks or windows. Its upholstery is stained from sweaty days of working in the woods and gathering up rambunctious country dogs and dropping a $1.50 Dairy Queen dipped cone. That’s so much nicer than a Lexus. Maybe I was born this way. Maybe I just never had the opportunity to get attached to really nice stuff. Maybe I just never tried to acquire it. Doesn’t matter. At the halfway point in my life, I’d rather be taking advantage of a free smile than paying for a debt loaded grimace.