Tedd Benson's most recent blog entry "Welcome to your Debt" discusses the recent financial crisis and our changing attitude toward home ownership over time. He discusses the value of home to its owners and how it has changed from an almost 100% investment through sweat equity to something so highly leveraged with little or no money down that it lost its sacred value to us as an "oasis of comfort and security".
I think this is all part of a greater shift toward an unjustified sense of entitlement as technology and easy money have granted greater access to a "better life". I use quotes because we define a "better life" by the size of our flat screen TV, SUV, and Great Room. Corporations promising instant gratification and bankers handing out easy money would not go there if we weren't demanding it, lest we start pointing fingers too quickly.
We have lost sight of the benefits of hard work, patience, and self discipline. We have come to feel entitled to home ownership, comfort, and instantly available delicious food. Why not? We're human; it's our instinct to strive for shelter and food for ourselves and those we care about. We also know that instinct run riot is self destructive. But it's not so much a matter of lack of discipline; I think we're lacking something deeper, a moral compass.
We "should" pay more attention to that little voice we all have that tells us to stop eating, exercise, buy local, recycle, and buy only what we can afford. But its human nature to resist the "should's", we need to "want" it. So how do we learn to value what is really better for us as a whole rather than on the surface?
It's all about education, teaching ourselves and each other the deeper values of moderation, self-respect, and acceptance of our present condition, a little Zen could go a long way. If we learn this lesson maybe we'll experience fewer unintended consequences such as financial Armageddon, Gulf oil spills, national obesity, overpopulation, loss of the family farm, global warming, and player's faking egregious fouls by their opponents in the World Cup.
More importantly we'll find a satisfied happiness within ourselves rather than a temporary high through instant gratification. I recognize that it might not do much for the bottom line of my little post and beam company. But it will help all of us find greater satisfaction in building modest homes, customized to our needs, using sustainable materials, and with a minimal carbon footprint and low life cycle costs.