Here’s the scenario: a firefighter is banging on your door telling you that the wall of fire is almost upon your home, that you have only five minutes to grab what is important and then you have to run. What would you choose? Five minutes is not very long so in such an extremely pressing situation what do you choose? The cat? Important papers? Your entire Beanie Babies collection? How do we know what is important? Some lives get completely out of control because of the inability to prioritize. Hoarders come to mind as an extreme example… when everything is important then nothing is unimportant. Often at the heart of the inability to prioritize is confusing wants with needs. I need a car but personally I want a Jaguar! I need food but I want gourmet! I need shelter but I want a 38-room mansion! (click photos for larger image)
I lay the blame for this inability to prioritize on the doorstep of the Western advertising culture in which we live. The purpose of advertising is not to inform us as to what we need but to convince us that we need to want what we don’t even know that we could want! We live in a culture which places great emphasis on things and little on embracing the self-discipline necessary for fostering relationships with others, the laying aside of my wants for the sake of the other. Really, what do we need? We need food, air, shelter, clothing, education and relationships with people and the Divine. Anything else falls into the category of want. Despite the plethora of high-end stores on Kalākaua Avenue in Waikīkī I find it hard to believe that Prada, Tiffany and Ferragamo fall into the category of need.
We might think that a threatening wall of fire is something with which few of us will ever need to contend. Life however is always demanding that we prioritize, that we decide what is more important than something else. When the time of death draws near, when we have only five more minutes to choose what goes with us… what will we choose? The Louboutin shoes or the relationships of which our life has been constituted?