I realise that this topic is very much a Generation X topic, but I am resurrecting it because God has brought it back to my mind. Anyone, nowadays, who is between the ages of perhaps 22-35 should have no problem relating to this. I think even some baby-boomers may dawn a smile.
Here’s what I want to talk about; the problems of
- personal dissatisfaction in being a pawn of Western Democratic Consumerism
- the pressure of fashion, design and ‘stuff’
- and the mantra of modern minimalism
Being a designer, visionary and entrepreneur, I am one who is deeply steeped in consumerism. In fact, I’m a well-oiled cog in the consumer machine. The ‘verse’ that I heard many years ago which will not leave my head goes something like
A key to Happiness is learning to require less.
I’d like to unpack that a bit. Firstly, when raised in The West, we are taught that power, happiness, control, self-worth and the general idea of value is intrinsically linked to money. This fallacy naturally births such social annoyances as:
- the idea that your possessions are what determine your personal worth
- and, the idea that your income / vocation are what determine your social standing.
There are many variations within each of these, and while by no means a comprehensive list, you get the idea.
Secondly, one needn’t be a rocket scientist to realise that these are indeed fallacies and blatant un-truths, and that should one live by these as though they might be true, one would surely be making a mistake resulting in a state of true discontent. I know, because I’ve been there.
Thirdly, the quote loosely assumes that Happiness is the ultimate goal, when in fact, The Glory of God is the true ultimate goal. The best thing a man can do – the most meaningful – is to glorify God.
So we have a problem. If our historic learnt nature is to believe that money brings the true goal of happiness, but we know this doctrine to be false, then how does one overcome this? I have no answer for all, but for me, one thing has seemed to make progress toward the sloughing off of this arcane falsity.
The practice of requiring less
In my pursuit of requiring less, I have noticed a few things. The first is that you have to want it for it to work. One can’t just stop buying things (or whatever the case may be) and expect that to make you happy. There has to be a true desire in-place. In my case, that desire came from a mental picture of the type of man I want to be.
Secondly, it’s a mentality. A mindset. The paradigm has to shift from the idea that money makes you happy, to the idea that [something else] makes you happy. For me, again, my motivation came from my mental picture of the man I want to become – a man who requires little, and whose satisfaction comes from other things such as God, family, community, music etc. There must be a shift in how you pursue your ‘happiness’ – consider what is truly important to you other than money.
The culture of minimalism
I grew up, as I said, in a culture of consumerism. For me, I responded to that in my adulthood by hating it. I hated that money dictated my social status. I hated that social status was important to me. I hated that stuff was important to me. So my natural reaction was to stand up for the things I believed in – that I didn’t believe money and stuff and social status were the keys to happiness, and further, that happiness was not the best true goal.
For me, what mattered in life was different roads toward glorifying God. For me this was time with Him, worshipping etc. Time with community and family, even though I had a history of bad family relations. These things, to me, would bring glory to God through my life. And I believe that if I glorify Him with my life, then there’s nothing more I could really want.
So the culture comes in when there is one person doing something differently – change. That’s the word that gets attention. When people see something different from what they’re used to, they notice it. We are drawn to change, and yet fundamentally fear it. If you’re in a blue room and there’s a white dot on it’s ceiling, we’ll stare at the white dot. It is contrast, difference, and individuality. Change is the same – scary but alluring.
There’s a way to live which draws sustenance from a more sustainable source, where life’s goal has nothing to do with our egos, and in which fulfilment is actually found through a simple process of distillation.
This was all a bit of rant at this point, but I hope to expand upon it in the near future as I explore it a bit more. Until then, read this very interesting statement from the company MUJI explaining their company ethos regarding consumerism and sustainability.
Please let me know what you think.