I am not a fan of Family Circus for many reasons, not the least of which is the dog named ‘Barfy’. So when the one who believes that all comic strips deserve at least a passing glance assured me (knowing full well how I felt about Barfy et al) that I would really like this one, I took the bait. And for the first and maybe only time, this corny strip redeemed itself by juxtaposing the comic and tragic sides of trash. All in one frame and nine little words.
And it reminded me of eight words that I’d been meaning to tend to.
“Shopping is money in search of a distraction.”
This sounds like a definition from Ambrose Bierce’s, early 20th century Devil’s Dictionary but it comes from my witty, 21st century comic enthusiast. He tossed out this tidbit months ago in the most effortless way. (Undoubtedly in response to my eye rolling over some excess or extravagance.) And it landed so squarely that I knew it merited consideration. So let’s consider it now.
When money is attentionally challenged, hyperactive, or just plain heedless of reasonable boundaries, shopping is a dependable distraction. And when money is listless, dissatisfied and under-employed, shopping can be a reliable balm for boredom. We shop til we drop. But eventually, distracted money has us asking the same question as the father in Family Circus.
From whence cometh all this trash? It’s tempting to blame the mouse or the mall. They’re willing accomplices but the real culprit is money that’s itching to escape ennui. And like most itches, the more we scratch, the more it itches.
It’s vicious, this life cycle of trash. More itching leads to more shopping and more shopping leads to more stuff. And today’s stuff is tomorrow’s trash- trash that is hard to kill. When we throw something “away”, exactly where do we think “away” is? Trash doesn’t really go “away”. It just relocates to a new home that is known as a landfill. More accurately, a land-overfilled. So don’t count on the dumpster doing your dirty work.
Or the donation box. It's just another temporary way station. It feels better than relegating trash to the trashcan, but zombie trash, masquerading as charity isn’t entirely charitable. Is it salve for a guilty conscience or an excuse to go shopping? Probably both. With the guilt assuaged, shopping has an easier time entertaining our money. But you can show your money who’s in charge. If you’re calm, thoughtful and undistracted, it will be too. It’s not that hard, especially when you think about the tragedy of trash.
Are you living in Family Circusville? If so, maybe it’s time for a move!