Simple Living: "The Rocking Horse Winner. What Does Your House Whisper?"
By Diane Balch on May 09, 2012
Sitting with my Mint Julep waiting for The Kentucky Derby to start... a short story that has always haunted me called The Rocking Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence came into my mind.
It is about a house that whispers: There must be more money. You see the family is very status conscious and even though they can not afford the lifestyle they lead, they put themselves into debt in order to appear that they are wealthy.
This story was written in 1926 sadly, it is as relevant today as it was back then. What usually gets us into debt is being seduced by advertising and social pressure to buy what everyone else around us is buying,... “the latest thing,” even if we can’t really afford or need these items.
More than there isn’t enough money: I hear people’s homes where I live whispering, There is isn’t enough space.... expand the house. You need to bulk shop... you need space to store a year’s supply of ketchup. Move into a bigger house... the kids are getting on each other’s nerves, and sharing a bathroom is too taxing to deal with... Instead of learning to deal with conflict, the kids just get more space, more space to hide... more stuff to use as buffers against real family intimacy.
I hear the houses whisper: The kitchen is not up to date... everyone is putting in a sound system through out the house... you need to do that too... your car... it’s too old, your clothes are not this seasons...
What does your house whisper to you?
On nights that I feel anxious about the future... whispering through the cracks in the windows..through the creaks in my stairs I hear: How are we going to pay for college? The roof needs to be repaired soon... the driveway is a mess. We don't have any landscaping. Is it important for my house to look good? We are on a Main Street... I feel a little self-conscious. Should I be putting more money into our house when in fact it isn't something I value a lot. I care more about our retirement savings, and my kid’s education... and our health - without our health does anything else really matter?
But I feel it... my car was 13 years old and falling apart and people used to say to me "My what a collector's item you have." I got a new car this year, and I have to say it is nice not to stand out anymore. More than showing people up, I think we all are still middle schoolers who just want to blend in with our neighbors. I have to consciously work on overriding my insecurities in favor of my values. It is hard.
But if you were taught like the ill fated boy in The Rocking Horse Winner to value money for status sake...you may jump on the material rocking horse and start riding it in pursuit of financial success. Joining a race that you can’t win, because when do you stop?
There is always more to buy... there is always someone richer then you... and another level of conspicuous consumption to reach.
If you enter this race you can ride and ride and exhaust yourself to death working in a job that may be emotionally unfulfilling but the pay is good, and so you ride and ride until you become a lifeless hollow rocking horse empty of personal integrity... racing after something that you can never achieve.
A rocking horse goes NO WHERE - but you can drive yourself into an early grave riding it.
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