Our throwaway mentality

Published May 9, 2021, 12:17 AM

by Fr. Rolando V. De La Rosa, OP


Fr. Rolando V. dela Rosa, O.P.

Pope Francis once said that we are destroying the world with our “throwaway mentality.” This is the kind of thinking that considers everything as disposable. We discard anything that has outlived its usefulness, and replace it with something bigger, better, faster, and classier. One of its glaring effects is our worsening garbage problem.

One time, I overheard two teenagers talking. One of them asked: “Do you already have iPhone12 Pro?” The other replied: “No. Mine is still iPhone6.” The first one sneered and said: “Yuck! So jurassic!” Acquiring the latest electronic gadgets has become a status symbol of sorts. So, even if your cellphone still works, you are pressured to get rid of it and buy the latest version.

The throwaway mentality is fueled by profit-oriented industries, particularly those specializing in digital and electronic gadgets. These industries earn billions by selling products designed to become quickly obsolete, or irreparable after several months, so the user is forced to discard these and buy new ones.

Sadly, this throwaway mentality has influenced our valuation of the more important things in life. Many people tend to discard cherished values, especially those that require long-term nurturance. The prevalence of broken marriages and watered down moral principles are only some of the far-reaching effects of our throwaway mentality.

Marriage was once generally considered as a sacred institution. During their wedding, couples would say with conviction: “I will love you until death do us part.” Today, many couples still say those words, but at the back of their mind, what they want to say is: “Until further notice.” Divorce is the unspoken escape clause in their marriage contract. If their marriage doesn’t work out, they can easily walk out. Their mutual commitment goes to the trash bin.

Our Gospel reading today reminds us of the sublime meaning of the word LOVE.  Jesus commands us to love one another as the sure way to become like God who is Himself love (John 15:9-17).

But in one issue of Time Magazine, we read that there is nothing romantic, metaphysical, or divine about love. It is merely a feeling that is chemically induced by stimulating the brain to produce phenylethylamine, which gives a person a natural high; endorphins that produce a sense of security and peace; and oxytocin that relaxes us, allowing us to experience satisfaction and a sense of belonging. If that were true, why don’t rich and industrialized countries produce large quantities of such chemicals, and release these in the atmosphere to create harmony and world peace?

Many evolutionary psychologists claim that faith should be deleted from our vocabulary because God is merely the product of the evolutionary adaptation of the human brain. One psychologist arrogantly declared: “I’ve got God by the throat and I’m not going to stop until one of us is dead.”

He advised all believes to throw away faith in God because this is an innate delusion created by the mind. But he could not explain why the human mind, after centuries of evolution, remains inherently hard-wired and fine-tuned to believe in God. The mind has a natural affinity to truth.

How do we fight against this throwaway mentality? Let me share with you a personal experience. After my installation as Rector of the University of Santo Tomas in 2008, a news reporter asked me: “Why do you think they elected you Rector for the third time?” I replied: “I think the electors measure my worth not based on my immediate usefulness. They believe that I am biodegradable. I can be recycled.”

He laughed at my response. But come to think of it, a good antidote to the throwaway mentality is our ability to upgrade, improve, and enlarge our understanding of things so we see them beyond their practical utility.

Let us pray that God may upgrade our understanding of the essential values in life so we will not be tempted to throw them away just because they have outlived their immediate usefulness. There are lasting values that we have to respect, nurture, and sustain because, without them, life ceases to be meaningful and worth living.