But it does have a prime directive: I cannot own anything that cannot fit int my Escape within one hour.
I suspect the genesis of the rule was simple. Just in case the French invaded Mexico again, and I had to take up the profession of fleeing refugee, I wanted to be able to make it back to Lukeville as fast as I could.
But circumstances have changed. I now have a permanent resident card that gives me a vested interest in how Mexico survives -- and I have a Mexican-plated vehicle that may or may not (depending on who I talk with) be allowed to cross the border as easily as I can.
So, if the French decide that their national interests are that enchiladas should be topped with Bearnaise sauce, I am here to gainsay them.
That type of thinking has its own consequences. If the one-hour, one-Escape rule no longer applies, I am free to pull out my wallet to buy -- Stuff.
The restrictive rule has been an effective defense against all sorts of acquisitions. A sculpture in Pátzcuaro. A painting in La Manzanilla. A tapestry in Guadalajara. Not to mention the fact I have not looked at large electronics in Mexico for four years.
That changed on last weekend's trip to Costco in Puerto Vallarta. I stood in front of the big screen television sets for a good 45 minutes. Comparing sizes, formats, prices.
NAFTA has effectively lowered the price of televisions in Mexico. As has the world-wide availability of big screens in general. When I bought my 46 inch screen two years ago, I thought it was huge. Compared to the 80 inch screens that are within purchase range, my old set looks like a computer monitor.
But we need to take one step back in this narrative to understand why I am sudden,y talking about a new television. I brought 400-some DVDS and a like number of CDs with me when I moved south. They have been sitting generally unused in the spare bedroom.
This week I started listening to music and watching movies. (And they are movies. My films were on laser disc, and found a new home at Goodwill).
If I am going to really enjoy my movies, I need something larger than my small monitor. And if I get a good television, I will need speakers capable of producing sound of the same picture quality as the high definition screen. Anyone who has been down this path knows that amplifiers, cables, and stands follow in quick procession.
Before too long, the Escape rule will be dead. And I will have a lot of electronic equipment subject to the wiles if tropical humidity. Not to mention the inevitable increase in vigilance for items that are easy to pilfer.
There is also another consideration. I recently ran across a proverb (a prayer, actually) that has managed to attach itself to my soul.
[G]ive me neither poverty nor wealth.Its parallel construction led me to believe it was Augustinian in origin. But I was wrong. It is far older than that. It is found in Proverbs 30. A theme I will discuss in my Sunday devotional at church.
Yes, provide just the food I need today;
for if I have too much, I might deny you
and say, “Who is ADONAI?”
And if I am poor, I might steal
and thus profane the name of my God.
Living in Mexico has made me very aware of how material the human soul is. Even my neighbors, who do not own much, share the same acquisitive nature. And that is good. It is what motivates us to provide for our families. Especially, when tempered with the wisdom of contentment.
But I am far too aware that it can also lead to callousness toward others. While we acquire, we often forget that the money we use for our enjoyment might be better used in finding ways to assist our neighbors.
I started to say, I have no easy answer. But Jesus did. At least, for the rich young man who claimed to have followed all of the commandments. When Jesus told him to "sell your possessions, give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me!,” the young man turned and walked away sad. "Because he was wealthy."
Being a wise teacher, Jesus could see that the young man only thought he was following the Law. In his heart, he loved his wealth more than he loved the spirit of the law. And the realization saddened him.
There is plenty of guidance there for me. Before I start swimming in the pool of acquisition again, I should ask myself what I am seeking.
I doubt Robert Preston will look any better on an 80 inch screen than on my 22 inch computer monitor. But he certainly could sound a lot better.