Stephen Colbert hilariously captures the world of ‘lifestyle brands’ in this clip from the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
This is the world where your favorite celebrity builds up their own brand, allowing you to see the clothing and household items that they have personally (apparently) handpicked or designed and placed on their website.
From there, you can buy them, usually for an eye-watering amount of money. In addition, there might be recipes, fashion advice and fitness tips. Everything is there for you to build up a life for yourself that is modeled on someone with apparently endless money and free time, who always looks perfect. This isn’t to demonize individual celebrities, nor the virtue of appreciating beautiful things, but obviously there is a lot of truth in Stephen’s hysterical take-down of lifestyle brands. (Although, who doesn’t want to see Alan Rickman’s branding of his life?!)
From a very young age, we want to fit in, but we want to be different. We all want to fit in, but in an individual way. We all want to be different, but then are relieved when we find others who are different in the same way we are. We want the ‘right’ things, the best things, the ‘certain type of things’ that will make our lives better. It is true to say that the more we want, the more we want, and the more we want, the less we are satisfied. If we are not satisfied with what we have, more things will not satisfy us.
I wonder too whether all this ‘wanting’ is a misplaced search for meaning, for connection. As Stephen Colbert jokes, “Coverton House doesn’t just sell things, it’s a haven for conversations. Conversations that begin with a warm handshake between equals, and end with the three digit code on the back of your credit card.” We tell ourselves that we’ll feel better, safer, and happier with more ‘things’ and we want to build up a brand of ourselves that is perfection, so that we will never be seen for our flaws. As humans, we crave real, genuine human friendships, at a deep level. We want to know that we are alright. Yet it is our flaws that allow others to help us, encourage us and support us. In other words, being seen for our imperfections allows us to, over time, build up great friendships and real connections.
As Christ said, “Give and it will be given to you”. (Luke 6: 38) We will never find the connection we crave unless we stop thinking about ourselves. Stop thinking about what we have, what we are, what we seem like, how we present ourselves to the world. This is humility, but not as we might know it.
“Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” – C.S. Lewis
We are more than just materialistic things, as important as they are, as wonderful as it is to create a beautiful, warm home. You cannot buy emotions; you cannot buy the truth of love and generosity. We already have all we need when we strive to allow God to love us and to find His love in others.