I recently saw RENT out at Starlight Theater here in Kansas City. I absolutely love this show (I've seen it before, own the soundtrack and saw the movie, although it wasn't the same) and recommend it to anyone. It's basically a modern retelling of the plot from La Boheme. For you non-opera folks, it's about a group of friends living in the East Village of NYC in the early 90's. They're artists and "fringe" personalties trying to figure out how to survive, namely pay their rent. The music is a little more rock and roll than your usual Broadway musical, but it's also very moving. AIDS plays a big part of the story line, as does sexuality, relationships in general and figuring out what is really important versus what society tells us is important. I've listened to the soundtrack a thousand times (no exaggeration) and for some reason something struck me this time that I hadn't really caught before. Near the end of the show is a song entitled "What you Own" in which two of the main characters talk about their personal struggles with the direction their lives have taken. One of them has "sold out," giving up on his own film making to be a director for a sleazy tv show. The words to the song that grabbed me
Your living in America at the end of the millenium
Your living in America, leave your conscience at the tone
And when you're living in America at the end of the millenium
You're what you own
Now, the concept of consumerism and "buy, buy, buy" mentality isn't new - and I've even touched on the subject in my blog before, but this is different. I'm thinking about buying a house in the next year or two, and for some reason this time watching the show made me wonder if that's a good idea. These characters don't own much of anything in the show - not even their emotions (which is another line in the song) - and I constantly struggle with discerning where the line is between survival and extravagance in how much I own. I have food to eat and a roof over my head, but I'm renting my house. There's nothing wrong with that, but I feel like owning my own home will somehow mark success in my life. Why is this the thing that means I "made it" and am now a responsible grown up? Do you think this is just me or is this a common idea in our society? Is it meaningful or just another mark of consumerism? Should I pursue home ownership or just keep renting? The thoughts continue to tumble...