The Kentucky Derby was this weekend and it made me think of a short story that has always haunted me called The Rocking Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence.
It is about a house that whispers: There must be more money. You see the family is very status conscious and even though they can not afford the lifestyle they lead they put themselves into debt in order to appear that they are wealthy.
This story was written in 1926 sadly it is as relevant today as it was back then. What usually gets us into debt is being seduced by advertising and social pressure to buy what everyone else around you is spending money on, even if you can’t really afford or need these things.
More than there isn’t enough money - I hear people’s homes whispering, “ There is isn’t enough space.... expand the house. You need to bulk shop and we need space to store a year’s supply of ketchup... Move into a bigger house... the kids are getting on each other’s nerves and sharing a bathroom is too taxing to deal with... In stead of learning to deal with conflict the kids just get more space. More space to hide... more stuff to use as buffers between really knowing or caring about one another...
I hear the houses whisper: the kitchen is not up to date... everyone is putting in a sound system through out the house... you need to do that too... your car... it’s too old, your clothes not this seasons...
What does your house whisper to you?
I nights that I feel axicious about the future. In the middle of the night... whispering through the cracks in the windows..through the creaks in my stairs I hear: "How are we going to pay for college? The roof needs to be re done soon... the driveway is a mess.. We don't have any landscaping? Is it important for my house to look good...we are on a main street... I feel a little self-conscious. Should I be putting more into our house when in fact it isn't something I value a lot. I care more about our retirement saving, and my kids education... and our health. without it does anything else really matter... But I feel it... my car was 13 years old and falling apart and people used to say to me viciously "My what a collectors item you have." I got a new car this year and I have to say it is nice not to stand out anymore, more than showing people up I think we all still are middle schooler who just want to blend in and we all are influenced by the culture of were we live to various degrees, depending how secure we are within ourselves and how aware and comfortable we are with our values.
But if you were taught like the ill fated boy in this story to value money for status sake. You may jump on the material rocking horse and start riding in the pursuit of financial success race that you can’t win, because when do you stop. There is always more to buy... there is always someone richer then you. Another level of conspicuous consumption to reach.
If you enter this race you can ride and ride and exhaust yourself to death working in a job that my be emotionally unfulfilling but the pay is good... and so you ride and ride until you become a lifeless hollow rocking horse with no one and nothing important in your life... racing after something that you can never achieve... a rocking horse goes NO WHERE - but you can drive yourself into an early grave riding it.