A rich man can be poor if wealth is all he has.
Conversely, a poor man can be rich with the beautiful possibilities of life, if he opens himself up to faith.
Exhibit A: Christ died without a penny in his pocket. Nonetheless, history thinks a good deal of him.
Sadly, it has been some time since God walked on Earth. In the interim, the western world has exchanged much of its spirituality for material goods.
Our current age is one of those decadent eras where man has so sufficiently subdued the earth that he tends to regard himself the measure of all things.
Perched atop that decadent wave is America.
Lacking any sustained spiritual or even cultural history; America exists as a triumph of consumerism. In our brief history, we have navigated world wars and cold wars - not so much by savvy, but by our ability to out produce our enemies.
Today, our materialism fuels our empire and secures for us the sublime ability to blow the world apart. Daily, this country produces trillions in material goods. We wrap our human cavities in silks and furs and leathers. We maintain a wonderfully decadent standard of living. Most Americans are now overweight. If nothing else, we have taken to heart that part of the Bible that talks of having dominion over earth. We use up the world. We exert our will. We fatten our sense of vanity.
This makes us happy. It distracts us from our spiritual mediocrity.
It is a false comfort.
Materialism alone can never allow us to transcend our own decay.
(At best, it can offer only a few glimmering distractions, the comfort of appearances). But no accumulation of objects can fill our spiritual needs. Nor can a proper aesthetic sense raise our children. At bottom, what is needed is a proper spiritual foundation.
By foundation I mean an absolute moral point of reference to help us discern between right and wrong. Without this foundation, we are doomed to live from whim to whim, finding enjoyment only in moments of fleeting beauty.
A worthwhile life is unthinkable without this spiritual compass. It opens our eyes to the intangible miracles - friendship, ideas, God - that allow us to live instead of merely exist.
It takes bravery to build a foundation upon faith. The coward is incapable of such riches. He will always opt for the transient trappings of society and the cool comfort of appearances.
It is the undiluted essence of tragedy that the coward can never know God.
One prays our society can produce more brave men than cowards. The alternative, to quote Martin Luther King Jr., is to "purchase our own spiritual death on an installment plan."