Monday, October 12, 2015

The Cult Of Things

Today as I sat at the kitchen table and stared out at the beauty out my window I realized how different my value system is from that of many people. You really can't buy what I saw today. It's not for sale. It's a piece of nature that is available to anyone who wants to take the time to sit and stare and let it in. I rent the house, but the view is free. I often enjoy watching others stop on the street below the house just to take in the beauty. If we see each other we wave. If not, we just enjoy it in our own private front row seat, just us, the solitude, and the perfection of nature.

And yet, such amazing and profound beauty matters little to others. Because it has no admission charge, because they can't outbid someone for it, because they can't hold it in their hand and show it off to someone,  it has little or no value to them.  They are people of things and it is not a thing unless they can own it, log it, strip it, mine it, make it something that becomes a commodity. Then it has value to them.

How messed up is that? So messed up that it's at the root of the illness facing this country right now. People no longer learn for the sake of learning. They learn enough to qualify for the job that will allow them to buy things. They no longer buy a house to live in. They buy a house to show off, to claim status above someone else. They live in a commodity instead of a home and wonder why it feels so empty. A car is not something that takes you out of the madness of the city and into the peace and quiet of nature. It is a status symbol to impress people who at the heart of it, don't really give a crap about you anyway.

Right now a very large part of this country is caught up in the thing trap. They vote against their own interests because the people with all the things have convinced them if they vote for them they will also have things, and we all know that the more things, the happier one will be.

Except it's a lie. I've seen people who should know better, and many who once did, get caught in the cult of things. They amass housefuls of things. They have to rent storage units to store all those things. They build extra rooms in their houses for those things. They live in a timid little crouch of approval-seeking misery in their massive piles of junk they bought believing one day they would reach critical happiness mass.

But they never do. They never find that happiness because it's not in things. It's in those around us, in the love we share with each other, in the meals we sit down together and form memories around.

It is not getting up each morning caught in the trap of things. It is not buying something to impress someone rather than for your own pleasure. Has it ever occurred to these accumulation fanatics that the people they are trying to impress either don't even know they exist, or they are frantically buying their own things to impress someone, too?

I suspect we went so wrong when advertising became non-stop indoctrination selling us underwear, toilet paper, and politicians. It wasn't enough to watch sports. You had to wear your team. It wasn't enough to enjoy a certain type of music or performer. You had to buy all the trappings to turn that admiration into cult status.

Advertising makes us think we were worthless, uncool, out of touch, unless we have whatever is  being shoved at us through the TV screen. And it's made worse by the whole consumer mentality we have to deal with in high school, college, and whatever job we end up with that enables us to buy things.

When did we stop learning that what matters most in life is not things, but love and friendship and the beauty of nature? When did we start judging each other for not having things, money, the right travel destinations, the best gifts, the most prime seat at the table in the most expensive restaurant? When did we start ending friendships, relationships, life-long dreams because they had no monetary value, they couldn't do anything for our career, they conflicted with the expectations of those who had the things we wanted to have for ourselves?

I think we've been played for fools. We have poor people judging those who have even less. We have clubs devoted to nothing but buying more things and if you're not a member of that club, you have no value. We have so many things but no compassion anymore. Most of us could probably feed a  hungry family for a month if we sold just the things we have stored that we never use.

But no, we have to keep those closets crammed full. We have to have that house, that car, those clothes, that membership, that gated community, that job because face it, we lost our souls a long time ago and those things are a last desperate attempt to prove we haven't.

So we pop our happy pills, drink our booze, smoke our weed, and make that plastic credit card scream to keep the facade alive. We hide behind out pile of things and say look at me, I have all this stuff! I'm so frigging happy!

Except the happiness doesn't come from inside you. It doesn't let you gaze upon the beauty of a piece of nature that belongs to all who set eyes on it, and not just you, not some rich asshole, not some greedy jerk who wants to fence it all off for himself. And until you realize that, your happiness will be temporary. It will be artificial. And it will be incredibly lonely because you can't buy what you really need.

I've never given a damn about things, which is why I have just what I need, and most importantly, why I've lived the majority of my life on my own terms with my own choice of friends and loved ones to share it with me. I grew up in Las Vegas, the town of things. There's nothing that money can't buy. You can impress anyone with anything as long as they are more miserable and empty than you. But a truly happy person, well, we're not for sale.

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