On Materialism.

I’ve always had a interest in Eastern philosophy (at the risk of sounding eye-rollingly New-Agey) because what it teaches really resonates with my beliefs. One of those particular beliefs is that the attachment to material things (well, attachment in general, but that’s another post) brings unhappiness.

Now, I love a new pair of heels as much as the next girl. I obsessively buy lip gloss and I do own a car. I’m not a monk and I don’t preach trying out homelessness or renouncing everything you own. However I do have something to say about attachment to these items. I also have something to say about always needing more and more in order to be “happy” and impress others. I am writing about this as a person who just gave away roughly 95% of everything I own, sublet my apartment, and moved to another country with only what small amount I had in savings. So there’s my credentials. Really you could call me an expert… I’m kidding. Sort of.

Cue the scientific part of my discussion:

A Harvard study asked people if they would rather make 50,000 a year if everyone around them was making 25,000 (option A), or if they would rather make 100,000 a year if everyone around them was making 250,000 (option B). Same living conditions, same neighborhood, same prices for goods in both scenarios. The majority of participants actually chose option A. It was more important to be the one making more income than everyone else, even at the expense of 50,000 a year. That’s 50,000 dollars less a year to spend on anything you want, just to be top dog.

We’re some greedy assholes, us humans. But we aren’t the only ones.

Take another study from Emory University. This one is almost comical. Capuchin monkeys were all given cucumber slices as a reward for performing an action. All the monkeys were more than happy to accept and chow down on these. But when grapes were thrown into the mix, a much tastier item, the cucumber-rewarded monkeys would no longer accept their prize. They threw them on the ground or turned their backs on the researchers.

Lets think about this.

As people we are so concerned about status that we would take a 50% cut to our income in order to attain it. Also, evolutionary it seems that we are hard-wired to be unhappy if those around us have bigger & better (even if that comes in the form of a grape). So I do understand the idea behind materialism. I understand the people that get lost in debt to own a house bigger than their neighbors. I understand the guy at the club with the fancy sports car that makes him so broke he lives with his parents. I get it. Status.

But are these people really happy? Does attaining what you want settle the matter and then you are satisfied? Or do people end up wanting the next model, the biggest house on the street, the even more expensive car? Most often they do. Its a vicious cycle. There’s only a small amount of time in which that thing you bought will bring you happiness and then you return to whatever baseline you were at before. This has been researched and documented time and again.

There is a reason why Denmark and Switzerland rank as the happiest countries on the world happiness report index (and the US at number 15, coming in behind Mexico). These countries live a more egalitarian lifestyle. The income discrepancy between the rich and the poor is not as vast a canyon as it is in the United States. Their monkeys are all eating cucumbers. They’re content. (They also offer excellent medical care to their citizens and people tend to live in expanded social structures that offer support and companionship… but that’s a point for another day).

The fact of the matter is, beyond the basics, you do not need stuff to be happy. In fact it’s the very stuff you obsess about that is bringing you unhappiness. You have no idea the relief I felt when I liquidated all of my things. I didn’t sell them. I gave them away to people that really needed them. Couches, tables, shoes, cookware, appliances, whatever… and it felt great. All I really kept wondering is “WHY and HOW in the hell did I accumulate so much stuff?” I can now fit everything I own into a couple suitcases. It’s fantastic.

I now have the freedom to go where I want to go. I spend my money not on accumulating things but on seeing the world. It’s sad to me when people tell me that they can’t travel because they have to work so much. And they only work so much in order to pay for the stupid shit they have that they can’t take with them when they die. And they live an entire life like that. Work, bills, work, bills. Higher bills, more work. We get so wrapped up in these things. Maybe your goal is not to see the world. That’s fine. Work less – by owing less – and just spend your time with your friends and family because it’s also been documented time and again that that is what really brings happiness to the human mind.

Materialism is not an easy thing to overcome. Minimalism is not an easy thing to wrap your head around. Like I said before, it’s programmed into our very nature. But as long as you (and your family) have a roof over your head, food to eat and some clothes to wear I’d say you are doing better than millions of other people. Everything else is just a bonus. How about thinking of that next time you need to feel a status boost? Not so fun right?

Stop spending so much time on buying and start spending time on living. Have stuff but don’t become attached to it and for the love of God do not become a slave to it. If you’re willing to work yourself into the ground for a new car, maybe you should consider readjusting your priorities. If you spend so many hours in the office that you become an asshole and your family hates you, ask yourself if it’s really worth it. Don’t put off enjoying yourself in the future because the future is not guaranteed. You have one beautiful and fleeting life. Nothing else matters than fully living it.

A Decade of This.

I live for vibrant nights with comfortable friends.
I have learned that nature and a good book can cure anything.
I know that life is a marvelous and strange thing.
I really do believe that if you are a good person then good things come.
I think that self-growth is the only real purpose in life.
Lets argue philosophy.
Lets learn each other.
There is a meaning to everything.
We are never meant to know it.
But entangled we can come just one inch closer.

I have no time for frivolity.
I can be obsessive
Sensitive
Naive
I can also be too smart for my own good.
I have a tendency to cut and run.
It’s all I’ve ever known
And nowhere ever feels like home.
I’m aggravatingly curious
Sometimes blatantly self-destructive.
I don’t know what I’m looking for
But I know I won’t ever stop.

I forgive as quickly as I lose my temper.
I constantly second guess myself.
I waver between loving and loathing humanity.
I’m either going to love you too much
Or not at all.
I get shy sometimes.
I also get crazy.
I believe there is beauty in madness.
And so much to be learned in sadness.
But I’m thankful for every moment I’ve been alive
And all those who have molded me along the way
Even the fleeting ones
Because yes, I’m hard to get close to.
I’m constantly being reminded of that.
If things are worth anything they take time.
I’m tired of apologizing for who I am.

I’m just not going to do it anymore.

Remember Not to Forget

“I forgot how much I loved you” he said after we hadn’t spoke in months.

And for just the most fleeting moment… It made me feel relief… or happiness? Redemption?

And then just confused. Is this bullshit or it is a genuine human realization? Can you forget how much you love someone?

When I was with him I forgot to love myself. I forgot how much I love to read. How much I love spending an entire night watching a horror movie by myself while anxiously (and un-self consciously) shoving popcorn into my face. I love thinking. And making bland food for one because that’s what I like and I’m not trying to please anyone else. I miss walking around the mall for 2 hours and buying nothing or too much and having no one to call to tell where I am and when I’ll be back. I forgot how I do love to work out, just not when I’m forced to go on someone else’s schedule. And that I love drinking wine and playing Lana Del Rey at midnight and feeling sexy on my own terms in no makeup and with no one asking me to come to bed or come watch TV or turn the music down. I forgot that I love doing all these things, all these things that make me happy and make me feel whole. So if you can forget the things that make you happy, what makes people any different?

I read a quote the other day this girl posted on Facebook. It said “People tend to say that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Truth is, you knew what you had. You just thought you would never lose it”. I don’t know if it’s original or a cut-and-paste quote, but it did make me think about relationships and appreciation. It’s a pretty common theme. It cuts across the ages. Boy under appreciates girl. Girl gets sad. Girl leaves and/or finds someone else. Boy realizes “what he had” and tries to get her back. Or vice versa, lets not gender stereotype. Well, why do we do this? Why do we take people for granted that we love? The people that we need in our lives? It’s the people we love that keep our lives happy and meaningful, but it’s these very same people that the daily grind of life often causes us to emotionally ignore the most.

I’ve always said it is the little things that count. And it is those little things that you do for someone that you are in love with. Because I believe that to be in love is to find happiness in someone else’s happiness. Not to lose yourself, but to feel energized by their smile because you caused it. If you are in love with someone you bring them their favorite candy bar from the gas station because you saw it and you thought of them. But somewhere along the line these things seem to go away. You get used to that person being around and instead you think about washing your car or your day at work while you look at that candy bar at the gas station, and then you walk away empty handed. It is this, this complacency, that eats away at something good. Eats away at it until it’s no longer recognizable.

Relationships take work. So many people make it to that comfortable stage and forget that another person is there that chose to walk through life with them (emphasis on choice here…), and that’s a shame. Because sometimes, whether you think you’ll never lose someone or you “forget how much” how you love them, they stop caring. And often, no amount of self-realization or renewed appreciation will bring them back to you at that point. Just remember the little things.