During the summer, Phil and I watch a lot more Netflix than usual since there is nothing new on tv (except 24, which we love!). On Netflix, I enjoy documentaries and can occasionally twist Phil's arm to watch one with me. We recently saw Tiny: A Story About Living Small which is about people who build/buy really tiny houses to live in. Like, seriously small spaces less than 200 square feet:
This trend to go tiny is due to financial constraints, environmental concerns, and people wanting to live a simpler life. It's a pretty fascinating trend, and while I can understand some of their reasoning, I would never want to live that way.
A few weeks ago, I was walking with a friend on Cape Cod, in a beautiful quiet neighborhood by the beach, and we were drooling over the houses we saw. These were gorgeous, huge homes set on perfectly landscaped lawns. The only thing more insane than the price tags on these houses is the fact that so many of the owners don't live there for more than a couple of months a year. These are their second homes, summer homes, beach houses, etc. Which means they most likely have an even bigger McMansion in some other beautiful area of the country. I was reminded of the sad documentary of the family who built the biggest house in America, Queen of Versailles:
Phil and I began discussing how different the desires of the tiny home dwellers and the mansion inhabitants are. The latter are searching for happiness, through the acquisition of material things. They are interested in keeping up with the Joneses, buying more stuff, hiring help to care for a home they aren't able to care for themselves. Their main goal in life is to act as though money actually can buy happiness. From the outside, looking in, they seem so unsatisfied with life, always wanting what they do not yet have, and then once they get it, wanting the next big thing.
The tiny home owners are searching for happiness through a simpler life, financially and in every other way possible. A tiny home means their is less square footage to maintain, less space to clean, and less room for material things. Their homes are decluttered and simply decorated with just the bare necessities. These owners usually live alone or with a partner, but having a big family is out of the question because there is literally no where to put everyone.
|You're looking at three homes!!|
Although the "Tiny Dwellers" and "McMansion Owners" could not seem to be more different, I think their lives and choices are both demonstrating an unknown desire for God.
Those seeking happiness in riches are much more common today. Most of us can relate to the feeling that if I just had a little more, then I would be happy. We often will find ourselves getting some of what we want but the desire for more remains, like a kid on Christmas morning who's sad when they open their last gift. The McMansion Owners are exemplifying the classic argument for God's existence known as the "Argument from Desire" or the "Restless Heart" spoken of by St. Augustine. What we long for is God, but if we do not have him, we will continually try to fill that eternal void with things (like oversized houses).
Our "Tiny Dwellers" also have an innate desire for God gone awry. Perhaps they have realized that material items do not satisfy or that we need to care for the environment... however, they do not know why. They have a desire to "live simply" but the desire seems to be an end in itself. I can appreciate their recognizing that there is more to life than money and what it buys. They are subconsciously seeking God by rejecting what the world offers in the way of temporal goods. This philosophy is somewhat similar to Buddhism. It rejects selfish desire (the objects we desire). However, it does not recognize that our infinite desire is good and can be satisfied by God and only God. I think what bothered me the most watching the documentary on Tiny Houses was the fact that it in some ways prevents us from truly loving others. Our love is meant to be fruitful and our lives are meant to be a gift to others. It clearly makes it difficult to be open to children and family life. But even if we are older or our children have moved out, it still makes it difficult for us to open our homes to others in a spirit of generosity.
The moral of this post is that we do not need to all move into 100 square foot houses or work until we can afford 10,000 square foot home. Neither is the solution to our common problem. What we need is to be poor in spirit so we realize that our happiness does not come from material items. This gives us the ability to both possess and be detached from our wealth. Do not seek to store up treasure on earth, but if God as blessed us with much than much will be expected of us in return. While the tiny home owners seem closer to finding peace and true joy than the mansion owners, they are all still looking for love in all the wrong places. If they could look past the size of their houses, and look forward to where their eternal home will be, they could put their time and efforts into discovering true happiness one day.