At what point do the things you own own you?
I don’t claim to be an ascetic. And I certainly don’t take issue with finding material value in material goods.
But it’s troubling at times to observe just how important possessions become to those around me.
Some of my friends would take on 2 jobs just so they can afford to have a car. A car that, as one friend puts it, will make commuting easier. Commuting, that is, to the 2 full-time jobs he’s working so he can pay for the car.
And that’s only the tip of the materialistic iceberg.
I hesitate to accuse Millennials and fellow Gen X/Y/Zers of clinging more closely to physical possessions than generations before us.
But in this very moment, from where I stand and how society lives today, I can’t help but feel a bit cynical about the way my peers think about the meaning of life.
As they say, actions speak louder than words. And it seems to be the case that they speak truths about ourselves that we dare not put into words.
Like the truth of wanting some shiny object not for any pragmatic reason but simply as a superficial substitute for personal dignity.
Or the truth that we actually do value money over doing the right thing, no matter what we might do “hypothetically” speaking.
Or the truth that we make up excuses to justify buying things we don’t need. To justify taking jobs we don’t want. To justify paying for things we can’t afford. To justify impressing people we don’t like.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to establish yourself as a respectable member of society. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel like a respected member of society — even if it’s merely for your own self-respect.
And while there’s also nothing wrong with wanting to create some semblance of order in your life — to at least feel like you’ve got your shit together from the perspective of everyone around you — what exactly is the point?
What is the point of working simply to fund your consumption? Why do we assume that leisure and relaxation, that carefree retirement at the age of 65, that having a beautiful home filled with a beautiful family — why do we assume these are the quintessential goals of the human species?
Why do we assume that an individual’s net financial worth is an accurate reflection of their value as a human being? Why do we define success by the number of exotic sports cars you own or how much revenue your business generates?
Why in fact do we assume that personal value and success can be measured with any degree of accuracy at all?
There are those who fervently believe that a life of lavish riches and abundant pleasure is equivalent to a life of happiness.
And though I don’t doubt the appeal of routinely dining at Michelin-starred restaurants and being able to fly to any destination around the globe in a private jet. I can’t help but feel that this is certainly not what true happiness is all about.
Because things shouldn’t make you happy. You should make you happy, regardless of the things that you use to fill the space around you and distract you from the painful reality that is a life capped off by death.
I do not believe that the meaning of life — that the purpose of being sentenced to death by pop quiz — is to suck up as much wealth as you can for yourself.
I see no meaning in having things merely for the sake of having them. I see no point in living for the weekend, and desperately seeking a relationship simply because you can’t stand your own company.
I fail to understand how fitting in and following the literal main stream can provide surefire avenues to justifying your miserable suffering and existence that is life.
You might drop dead tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, then the day after. Or the day after that.
And in the moment of your death, as time pauses so you can watch your life story unfold in its entirety, how will you feel about yourself?
What can you say about what you’ve done with this double-edged gift called life?
Do you feel fulfilled? Are you proud of how you’ve spent your time, day after day? Do you sense purpose in your decisions and actions?