Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Love Life, Not Stuff

Leo Babuta on a lesson that I know, but have to repeatedly learn:

Our obsession with stuff has become unhealthy. When we have a void in our lives, we buy things. When we have problems, we buy things. And these things are becoming more and more expensive, bigger, shinier … more wasteful.

This obsession with stuff leads to owning a lot, having a lot of clutter … and yet this stuff doesn’t fill our lives with meaning.

It leads to deep debt, from buying so much, and needing bigger houses and storage spaces to contain everything. Financially, we’re worse off than ever, because of this obsession with stuff.

We buy things when we’re depressed, we buy things for others to show how much we love them … and in this way, stuff has separated us from actually dealing with our emotions, blocked us from truly connecting with others.

Let’s replace that lust for stuff with a lust for life.

Follow the link for ideas on how to tackle this.

Elsewhere, read about stress, stuff, and world travel -- the not so secret connection.


Shawn said...

Okay...I'm just about OVER this hackneyed commentary. Let's look at a couple points in Mr. Babuta's excerpt:

*"obsession with stuff": please define, as I DOUBT that our consideration or contemplation of material goods is quantifiably any more or stronger than in centuries past. This is a thread of the anti-physical that infests the church and the general counter-cultural world. Goods are good; get over it.

*"more wasteful": we become wealthier, we buy more expensive goods. Do please look at what Victorian (or, as reductio-ad-absurdum, cavemen) considered 'luxury,' and then take the unavoidable step to acknowledging that the good things that we, as predominantly middle-class individuals, have are vastly better than the good things that were available to our great-grandparents....or even parents.

*"this stuff doesn't fill our lives with meaning": yes, well, neither does a house over our head, but it's noticeably better than not having one. Move along.

*"Financially, we're worse off than ever": OH, GOOD LORD, IS THIS HYPERBOLE AND DAMNED TOMFOOLERY. We (and, you may choose to define 'we' as almost anything you want) ***amazingly*** wealthier than any group of socially or in-any-other-way comparable people in the history of the universe (so far as we know)

*"we buy things for others to show how much we love them": Mr. Babuta, please let me know when, in the history of...well...whenever, have individuals been able to convey love without cost. Whether that cost be monetary or in-any-other-way measurable, the cost must be paid, or the gesture is utterly worthless. Your complaint is tired and baseless, sir, and I ask that you discontinue this lame attempt at social commentary. An individual gets what we refer to as 'money,' typically, by the work of his hands. This is no different than any other point in history, only now we have exceedingly easily quantifiable methods of evaluating the 'price' of that work. That is, contrary to your insinuation, a wonderfully GOOD thing, and allows us to avoid the wasteful and inefficient barter economy.

*"Let's replace that lust for stuff with a lust for life." I'm not even sure how to react to this batch of trite...or, wait, do I mean 'Tripe'?

The only valid point here is that, a desire for something may outweigh the desire for a better thing. This, contrary to Mr. Babuta's apparent point, is no more true today than it was to Salomon.

I DO encourage everyone to read the remainder of Mr. Babuta's post, but not to glean great truths of life, but rather to notice that tiredness (of ideas) can still sell well to the populace.

Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

Zac said...

Shawn's post made me laugh, and yes indeed this sort of commentary is short on substance on particulars, but the general message that happiness stuff != happiness is confirmed by vast majority of happiness research. So it is not as trite as he suggests.

It seems likely to me that we inefficiently overspend in order to signal certain things: our love for friends and family, or our status -- which are actually ineffective signals and fail to provide the results we were hoping for. Taking a step back and thinking about what's important in life is as close to universally good advice as you can get.

The pessimistic and anti-market bias in the "Zen Habits" post is quite comical though. The characterization of modern times as being plagued by certain maladies of the soul that past generations did not experience is untenable.. although it can be said that we now waste far more resources on signaling simply because we can now afford to.