I went out yesterday and bought an iPad. Or was it the iPad 2? I can’t remember, I was in a zombie-like consumer fog. I needed it, it was core to my being, and, given the time to tell you about it, I’d gladly share with you the list of reasons that I bought it.

Now, I hope you’ll forgive me, that first sentence was an outright lie. (so was the second, for that matter) I have not purchased an iPad or an iPad2 despite the my instinctual urges to get one (or, while I’m at it, why not two?)  But it seemed like a reasonable way to usher in conversation about the elephant in the room, the 800 pound gorilla, or, perhaps more aptly, the fart in the elevator. The yet unfounded idea that not buying anything for a while will bring me peace, center my being, and perhaps qualify me to fill the recent job opening of “Spirtual Advisor to Tibet”. I must warn you, if you wish to like me when this is all done (including all parts of the Not Buying It series), you may want to stop reading now. It isn’t that I’m a zealot, anti-American, a non-conforming consumerist or all three, but that I believe I see things for what they are. Or maybe I see them for something very close to what they are, and as far as I can tell, it isn’t a very popular viewpoint.

Sarah and I decided not to buy anything for a while. That might be a month, though I hope it will be longer. Immediately, those interested in our little endeavor inquired about what, exactly, were the limits of the experiment. Well….I guess we didn’t fully think that through. I mean, man’s gotta eat, right? Anyone that’s ventured to say a prayer, or ask me to pass the salt once I’m ready to eat would agree that depriving me of food would be a detriment to the community as a whole. So, buying groceries makes the list. But what about toilet paper? The French use less, the Indians and Africans use none, but the Cowans? This too would be a detriment to the community.

It’s a fun game we play, going down the list and trying to decide what stays but really we could have gotten to the meat of the matter quicker than that. It’s about Need versus Want. Though, honestly who can even get that right anymore? The confusing conundrum, and the perilous problem with putting me in front of a television,  whistling a radio commercial, walking by a well decorated store window,  junk mail landing in my mailbox, or that wretched daily Groupon email is that I am absolutely 110% certain that I need it. I must have it. Right now. For to be without it would be of detriment to the community as a whole! As I make this decision some very good looking person turns to another very good looking person in a well-furnished room far away and knowingly winks: “We snagged another one, Charles” one says to the other, and the other just grins a sparkly, smug, self-satisfied smile. I am weak and these incredibly good looking men are to blame.

But the reason we decided to stop buying isn’t just because of the massive influx of “its” that these good looking men have funneled through the door of our 970 square foot home. There is a burden I carry, to have my things. Once I’ve decided that we must have “it”, I begin to research the product, I read reviews, I scour Craigslist and eBay in hopes of finding just the right color at just the right price. If I’m lucky, I find it right away, rush out and buy “it” from this unsuspecting fool who is totally unaware of the rare artifact that they are giving away for practically a song. If I’m unlucky, I must pay full price, shamefully hanging my head but smiling in secret as I cart off the latest and greatest “it”. And then I bring “it” home, find “it” a place  (but, because of the size of our house, I must sell whatever “it” was in the place that my new “it” now holds), read “it” bedtime stories, brush “its” hair, and spoon with “it” as we fall into a deep slumber. Several weeks later after the initial euphoria has worn off, I receive an email, encounter a newspaper ad, or get caught unsuspecting by another catchy jingle and there they are again, those smug bastards, winking and smiling. “Do you want to play a game?” they ask in a strangely automated voice, and we begin our dance again.

So, we’re not buying “it”. For now, we are turning off the faucet of stuff. I’m eager to discover just how this will change our monthly bills but, I’m even more interested in the additional time we’ll have from not finding, driving to, buying, dusting off, and obsessing over our “its”. What will I do with all that extra time? I think it will be an adventure, and I’m sure there will be plenty to report. Despite President Bush’s urging to spend, spend, spend, this feels like the right thing to do because, truly “the only winning move, is not to play”.