There are indications that the Western world's infatuation with materialism may be waning. For as long as most of us can remember, the "good life" has been considered to consist in success, ease, and abundance. Advertizing, credit card companies, and governments have helped to fuel this vision, and the public schools are the official fabricator of this nation's getters-and-spenders.
Consequently, Western statisticians and economists have gotten into the habit of measuring wellbeing in terms of Gross Domestic Product, or, the economic value each person can expect to enjoy, based on a nation's overall economic output. The higher the GDP, the more, it has been assumed, the happiness and wellbeing of the people.
But this may be changing. A new report produced under the auspices of the French government suggests that material abundance is not the best measure of the good life. The French team insists that we have to factor in two other elements as well: what it calls "quality of life" - which is vaguely defined in terms of a sense of happiness and wellbeing apart from material wealth; and the state of the nation that will be handed down to future generations - debt, infrastructure, and so forth. The Economist (September 19th) admits, "Finding a single measure that captures all this, the report concludes, seems too ambitious." Indeed. More than money and things are involved in attaining to a good life.
But the important thing is not the French have found an alternative way of measuring happiness. The important thing is that people are looking for something other than stuff to direct them toward the good life. Stuff no longer satisfies; indeed, it never did. And this recognition that there is something more than stuff, more than wealth, that contributes to happiness, something related to "quality of life" and concern for the future - this may signal the beginning of the end of the materialistic charade.
Will believers be ready to step into that gap, once it collapses, to point to the "single measure" - knowing the living God - that alone can make men truly happy?
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