Thursday, June 14, 2012

Does Clothes Really Make The Man?

Does Clothes Really Make The Man? 
By Sharice Harris

              Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.
- Benjamin Franklin 

Years ago on a trip to Burma, something simply extraordinary happened in my life. In the midst of abject poverty, the kind that exists whether there is an economic crisis or not, I experienced a rare phenomenon that many of us in western society deem impossible without money.

Absolute Contentment. 

As I walked through the dirt roads filled with shoddy shacks I couldn’t help but noticing how happy the towns people were who lived there. 

Clothe in plain woven fabrics the men beamed from ear to ear while local women cheerfully shared humorous familiar stories. Although I had grown up in conditions that weren’t far from these back in the U.S., it hit me that I’d never come across poverty stricken people who genuinely seemed contently happy with the cards life had given them. 

Why were these Burmese people so content? According to the news they had absolutely no reason to be this happy. Had they accepted and made peace with their lot in life? Had they given up on the fight for a better life or did they find out something about life that most of us are still searching for? Had they realized the meaning of life? 

Uncovering the Gift of Gratitude in the Midst of Distraction 

In western society we face so many momentarily distractions, many of which block us from realizing that we already have everything we need. According to a study held by PBS the majority of Americans who claim to be ‘very happy’ reached it’s peak in 1957. That same study went on to reveal that our happiness has been on fairly steady decline since 1957. 

However, why would we be so unfulfilled and so unhappy, when according to ‘The Huffington Post’ we are one of the richest countries in the world? Is having more than most people worldwide simply a distraction which keeps us from appreciating all that life, all that this planet has actually gifted us? 

I mean wouldn’t having more naturally constitute as being better? 

Now I know that some of you are going to disagree with me and that’s fine you are entitled to your opinion just as I’m mine. Hey, from my perspective we are all pieces in this puzzle and each one has his or hers perspective for a very specific reason. I talk more about this subject in my book: ‘A Permanent Summer’

What I saw, felt and experienced in Burma, was evidence that the more society seems to have the more it’s people to complain. As I watched children curled up and sleeping alongside hard dirt roads with no pillows, sheets or comfy mattresses, I couldn’t help but think about how children back home in the U.S. and Europe would have made an all out fuss over not receiving the latest PS3 or Nintendo Wii for X-mas. 

Why and how could such a tremendous gap of extreme basic human rights and inequality exist on such a small planet? How can we share the same air, share the same basic needs yet overlook the fact that every day we have EXACTLY what it is we need. 

While we complain about the economic crisis, people in Burma and most countries in the world have never ever experienced any type of financial growth. I once heard a Spanish man say to a man from Guyana that Spain was experiencing a ‘crisis’, only to hear the Guyanese man say. Oh really? Then my country has been in a crisis forever. 

According to Global Issues, more than 80% of people worldwide still live in complete abject poverty. They have always been living with less, yet they are happier. 

Perhaps if we could focus on everything that we do have, if we could just make a list of everything, no matter how tiny or miniscule they may seem, then perhaps we could come to the awareness that we really have been incredibly blessed with more than we need. 

In most of western society, no matter which social class we come from, no matter how lowly and hard our past may have been, we can leave those stories in the past and be thankful that we have the opportunity to grow and that we have the opportunity to share that growth with the rest of humanity. 

The economic crisis may have required that we downsize our supersized lifestyles but in the process of it’s occurrence, I’ve personally come to realize that everything that truly matters could never be bought anyway.

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