« boutique | Home | temple at night »

April 25, 2008

Abandoning Status

About a month ago, I stopped at a bakery, grabbing a pastry before heading off to meet a client. As I turned out of the parking lot and onto the street, I saw a man standing on the median with a sign and a cup. While not uncommon, what struck me was his attire: khakis, worn loafers, and an earth-toned pullover. Considering previous discussions I've entertained regarding their clothing choices, I was taken aback; this pan-handler's outfit was (dangerously?) close to my wardrobe.

"Wow, this neighborhood is more affluent than I thought," I sneered. "I'm at the same level as the bums."

Today, if I stood up and walked to the front window of my new apartment, I can see that very median. What has changed for me? Not a thing. I've not become any more affluent. I'm imagining that perhaps my brother on the street is in much the same situation as well. Now, however, we walk in much closer circles, and the disparity between us is amplified.

I'd like to think that my affinity with him was more than just clothing options. But how often do we consider each other based on how we are dressed? Don't be caught in last season's offerings. In this new neighborhood, Mercedes are the new Honda; try a Maybach, Bentley or Lambo if you want to set yourself apart. All the houses are big--even the small ones. I live here, but never have I felt more out of step.

This environment has exacerbated my recent contemplations on status. Never before have I been more inclined to reject the concept of status altogether.
Status: noun. the official classification given to a person, country, or organization, determining their rights or responsibilities.

So much of what I see from day to day seems to be in the pursuit of status instead of progress. Our move to a smaller apartment was met with much concern, offset only by its address and whereabouts. In this culture where bigger means better, downsizing is seen as a bit of a failure. Houses, cars, and clothes are the most visible manifestations of this trend. Instead of living below your means, we embrace excessive consumption, delayed entry into the workplace... and it's all a dangerous trap.

If status was inextricably tied to progress it could work. But it's not. Grandiose properties with luxurious vehicles gracing the driveways could just as easily spell unchecked spending and snowballing debt. Even so, we treat these people differently, thinking that they represent wealth and success.

Research shows that we could hardly be farther from the truth. The perspective of what weath is differs from those who are rich and those who are not. These perceptions that we have may actually be keeping us from an attainment of affluence, as well as perpetuating traditions that may discourage deliberate thought in what we want our lives to be.

Because I want to live my life--and not some default existence--I must pay attention to and customize every decision for the maximum effect. I cannot do this effectively if I subscribe to some external standardization that gives me the "right" to certain things. The panhandler has the same right to respect and consideration as I do, and if I am infinitely wealthy but choose to dress like my brother on the street it should not be considered anything other than my choice.

Status quo is static; progress is varying and dynamic. To which will you pledge your allegiance?

Leave a comment