What gives our purchases meaning?


It’s Black Friday, and my partner and I have Apple fatigue. We purchased three Apple products online today, as gifts for ourselves and for others.

In dialogue through these transactions, we felt an eclectic mixture of tension, stress, excitement and guilt. I started to question my specific purchase and asked him for help. He brought up to me the idea of excess, which for me translates to not feeling worthy of things and learning how to receive—but for him, it was more a conversation of not wanting to buy anything he wouldn’t actively use for fear of “waste.”

Poet and philosopher Mark Nepo writes in his book, The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life:

The tensions of modern society become apparent as we drift between competition and cooperation, scarcity and abundance, and the effort to separate and integrate. Still, each of us is asked to discern our own sense of what it means to be here.

While we each brought our individual belief systems to the conversation, ultimately we were both asking the same question:

How do we decide if a purchase is meaningful? What makes something meaningful enough to purchase it?

If I notice a charge (which reads to me as tightness, worry, or anything other than clarity) around buying an item, the most important thing I can do is to inquire about my intentions for its use. I try to define the item’s purpose.

A brand new iPad will be coming to me in a week. I don’t need it. No one really *needs* an iPad. But, how can I make it meaningful? How can it amplify my pleasure and assist my purpose?

These are the questions I’m asking, and want to ask, and don’t want to bypass—especially on a day that is so ruled by consumption. I’m grateful to have a partner who can stir these things up in me.

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