Friday, August 22, 2008

Material -- jcarolek

A couple of days ago I received a letter from an old friend. This old friend has found himself in a position in which I would never wish to find myself. He is sitting in a state correctional facility. Once a major provider of material goods for his family, he is now facing some hard realities. He can no longer provide that which he knew to be the bread and butter of raising a family, and considers himself a failure, both for his inability to do so and for choices and judgments he made which resulted in his being in this position today.

His letter was a hard one to read. Not only because of his immediately-familiar-once-again scrawl that I had not seen in nearly thirty years, but because of the pain I felt as I read his words. And even as I read, I laughed at some of the absurdities he shared with me about the DOC system. A couple that struck me as particularly odd were the fact that the corrections system has decided that his date of birth differs from the one he has always known it to be, and for which, of course, he has official documentation to verify. Still, because they have determined his birthday to be another date, they refuse to listen to his contention to the contrary. Secondly, he is housed with the inmates who have not earned their high school diploma, or GED. This is rather amusing on the surface, as the system accepts that he has both an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League school, and a law degree from a premier law school, BUT they hold firm that they have received no verification of his actually having graduated high school.... the headmaster of the school assures my friend that the verification has been mailed to the DOC at least four times...

So, a talented, educated individual lives among those he has spent years defending. And he is having to really come to grips with the importance, or lack thereof, of material. Today he concerns himself with his ability to earn $13 per week working in the library rather than the $5.12 per week working in the mess hall... so that he can afford the extra blanket to keep warm in the colder night temperatures that are already beginning in that part of the country. And he is discovering that the things he spent a lifetime working for, but also taking for granted were within his control, are, indeed, not only out of his control today, but are being taken away from him and his family. As thousands lose their homes to foreclosure in the current economic environment, he finds himself in their ranks, bolstered by a family who assures him that these are only material things and that it is the "real" gifts he gave them, his time, his love, himself, they will always consider most important... but he knows that facing the reality of losing those material things is quite different from actually living without them ... and I can read the fear in his words, scrawled double spaced on the lined paper.

So, as I read the latest in the changes eBay is "offering," the changes that demonstrate, once again that I am NOT in control of my own eBay selling experience, I have to step back and reflect on the importance of this material competition to "survive," and remind myself that all of it could end in a moment anyway .. that whether I succeeded in my eBay selling ventures or not, my enrichment, should it come from this process, will be but for the moment, and that my future enrichment will come from something else ... something, I hope, less materially based. And I realize that though I came here to the blogs for material reasons (the blogging competition of 2006) I have remained for non-material reasons. I rarely promote my goods for sale here, as I personally have found more reward in the friendships I have made here. Yes, I have made a few. So, let eBay take away 30% of my customer base by eliminating my ability to accept checks and money orders.... let them continue to wreak havoc on my DSR's while pretending this is to benefit me ... and let them ensure the small seller of truly collectible goods will always sort to the bottom of the searches, enforced by their new policies to promote those who sell more items of the same kind (promoting the drop-seller methodology). None of this will rob me of the most important enrichments I have enjoyed from this eBay venture. And, when I stop to REALLY think about it, I was enriched in spite of my own actions... I came here for material gain, and was gifted something that cannot be purchased with all the material in the world.

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