Every day the addicts come in. I can always tell the junkies from those who are just recreational users. As I talk with the folks who have the monkey on their back, their eyes shift this way and that; they hardly hear a word I’m saying. As they reply to my queries, they lose their train of thought and have to pause to rethink the question. Then, in mid-sentence, they will stop short and, pointing in the direction of the object of their obsession, the words come out unbidden. “I have to have it! How much?”
I am, of course, speaking about people who are addicted to the musical instruments of which I am the purveyor. To any number of folks who walk through my door on a regular basis, these are things which they crave, things without which they cannot live. You who don’t suffer this affliction will laugh, but the need to acquire certain instruments is insurmountable to many. I suppose that we might call it more of a dependency than an addiction, since the need is psychological and not physical, but nevertheless, it is a difficult thing to shake.
My mind leaps to a time, just a few years ago, when one customer began periodically bringing in guitars for me to either purchase from, or sell for, him. They were very expensive guitars, some of them selling originally in the thousands of dollars. I would look over the instrument and ask, “Are you sure you want to sell this beautiful instrument? It’s perfect in every way!” The answer came repeatedly, “I’m just tired of it. I bought another one last week.” Each time, the instrument would go for a fraction of its original cost, but he didn’t seem to care. Nothing mattered except the latest acquisition. “It’s the one I’ve always wanted! This is the one!” A few months later, he would return to sell the one, since another one had taken its place. I made the mistake of calling his attention to the foolishness of his actions one too many times, I suppose, since his visits ceased one day without any explanation. I hope he got some help, or at least stopped throwing away such great sums of money in that way.
Again, I hear the laughter of a few folks who can’t see how buying and selling instruments could be a habit which could require counseling. I have indeed known of cases which required intervention. There was one man with whom I did business many years ago who required counseling over a long period of time. His psychiatrist advised him to cease buying and selling guitars altogether, since it had taken over his every waking moment (and even kept him awake many nights). Quite a number of people I know are so driven to acquire instruments that they will risk damaging their family’s financial stability and even their marriages to do it.
It’s not always the beautiful instruments which control people either. Only this afternoon, one of my regular customers came in to pick up an item. While he was here, he walked back to where the PA mixers usually sit. I could tell, without looking, when he saw it. The sharp intake of his breath was audible to me even though I was around the corner and across the room. I knew exactly what he was looking at, because I know him. It was an old mixing board from the 1980’s. He exclaimed, “Where did you get this?” The longer we talked, the more agitated he became. “My wife will be mad, but she’ll just have to tough it,” he exclaimed. “I’m buying it!” He already has at least three mixing boards at home. He doesn’t need another one. He knows this. But, the desire to own this vintage board has him in its grip and he is beyond struggling to get away from it. I talked him out of it today, but if it is still here the next time he comes by, I’m not sure that anything I say will keep him from purchasing it, regardless of whether it causes damage to his relationship with his wife or not.
Again, I’m confident that a few readers are still skeptical of the serious nature of what is under discussion here. Let me move on a bit further and see if I can clarify. Perhaps, if I select a subject with which others of you are familiar, you will see the problem. I wonder…if we talk about lady’s shoes, could you identify? I know people who are driven to buy every “cute” pair of shoes they see. How many pairs are in your closet? Ten? Twenty? Fifty? One hundred? Perhaps shoes aren’t your obsession. Possibly you buy fishing equipment. Anything from tackle to boats–there are plenty of things to be hoarded in this category. Maybe you have to have the newest technological wonder out there. The latest smart phone, the latest television, the latest laptop or notebook; if it plugs in or uses batteries, you need it. For some, it will be artwork, or books, or even makeup and beauty treatments.
Without spending a lot of time preaching at you, I do wonder if we really understand the problem here. We all, every one of us, are inclined to excess in our love of objects. Whether guitars or shoes, cars or comic books, we attach an inordinate amount of importance to these objects to the detriment of our relationships, our reputations, and our religion. Yes, our religion. Our God tells us that we are not to put any other object of worship above our adoration of Him. And, our obsession with things is diametrically opposed to the very idea of a God to whom we owe complete fidelity. Jesus made this eminently clear when He taught that we cannot serve God and material things. When things fill our hearts and minds, there is no room for love, for service, or for worship.
Perhaps it’s time that we determine that things will not come between us and our God; between us and our spouse, between us and our neighbor. It is time for us to take whatever steps are necessary to shake off the monkey on our backs, whatever that may be.
Freedom from obsession brings freedom to love people. Freedom from excess leads to freedom to serve God. It’s time to break free from desire; to kick the habit of needing things.
Of course, I’m hoping that a few of you will still need some guitar strings or drum sticks. If everyone stops buying stuff, I may have to find a real job.
“You shall have no other Gods before me.”
“A man with an obsession is a man with very little sales resistance.”
(C.S. Lewis~British novelist/scholar~1897-1963)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.