It Ain't Easy Being Puritan & Narcissistic

Did you know we are selling our cities? I heard about that on the news the other day. Cities that can't keep themselves in financial order have been selling themselves to foreign (and domestic) investors.

I am thinking of various kingdoms throughout the ages that overspent on their desires, only to resort to selling parts of their economies and important land (say like that which had oil reserves) to foreign investors. The end result? These countries went down or lost control of their ability to make their own decisions about resource-use.

I do not know a lot about the selling of our cities; I won't be able to engage in any high-level conversation on the topic. I am not bringing it up to be political. It just seems to be a very practical and pressing example of what happens when our desires exceed our mechanisms for dealing with desires.

The Puritans were fairly clear on this point: they stirred up desire (mightily!), but they balanced it with a cautiousness found in the book of Proverbs. It's a hard balance to strike.

Indulge desire too much and we can become narcissistic. And, oddly enough, deprive and constrain too much and we can also become narcissistic.

Chapter 4 of Ravished by Beauty explores how the Puritans tried to keep a balance. It wasn't easy then, and it isn't easy now.

This brings me back to the practical. I am thinking of a friend who cannot control her own spending. She finally told her husband, "Take the credit card. Give me a cash allowance. I thought I could make this work, but I can't. I don't want to sink this family."

My friend impresses me. She balanced her desires with a constraint that she needed. She chose the Puritan way instead of the narcissistic way. And it was a beautiful thing.

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Blogger Madame Rubies said...

In Margaret Atwood's Year of the Flood, corporations own all the cities. They control the police, etc... This scares me.

Blogger David Rupert said...

The buying of our cities is an interesting article. Goldman Sachs and investors will make money no doubt. What happens when our cities are sold to foreign entities...those we are already indebted to.

On to your other point about the Puritans. They loved life. The lived richly with each other. They were marked by thrift -- and they were happy. We ought to try this every once in a while as a nation and as individuals

Blogger Beth Covalt said...

I would love to leave a thoughtful comment, but can you hear that? It's the sound of me panting. I feel like I've been sprinting through mud,though delicious mud, to catch up, and when I hit chapter 3, I just couldn't keep up the pace anymore. I need to sit and drink a bit. Perhaps over the weekend I can catch my breath and carry on with you. Loving the discussion that I am hearing up the path.

Blogger Colin P. Fagan said...

"Like many later generations, the Puritans were more interested in institutions that functioned than in generalities that glittered..."(Boorstin 16)

Reading your post reminded of this quote. It is impressive how vigilant the early Puritans were in finding practical creations from faith. I am sure much of this had to do with the challenges they faced in the New World, but is still impressive. The ability to cling to ones faith while making sure that it strongly informed every institution.

They seem to have taken this intersection very seriously. There was no compromise--for better or worse. My assumption is that our financial issues, along with so many others, grows out of our loss of this same vigilance: We like and appreciate faith and it's ethics, but we must keep them out of most institutions.

This is just another great lesson we need to learn from our Puritan fore-bearers. Thanks for the post.


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