On Happiness and Consumerism

Our culture has become obsessed by an unsustainable ideal we call consumerism, the doctrine that our happiness, self, and economy all depend on constant consumption, never-ending purchases. Consumerism assumes that we have infinite resources to keep manufacturing products, but in fact, our earth’s resources are incredibly limited. Therefore, this system leads us in the direction of both an economic collapse and an environmental crisis.

Yet, there are those of us who resist this insane movement. We are lucky to count ourselves among those who value quality over quantity, who see the inexpressible value in a warm and passionate kiss, a golden sunrise, a quality thought, an exquisite piece of music, a breath of fresh air, a summer breeze, a hot chocolate in the winter. We find value in the little things and drink them in deeply as if I am doomed to die within the hour. We try to embrace life as the death row inmate embraces every detail of their last meal.

For those who reduce life to mere quantities or numbers, the qualities of life, its true essences and real being, escape them; they know only their own shallow ideas and miss the great vastness of the universe beyond superficial conceptualizations. It sometimes happens that, on their deathbeds, they find themselves about to die without ever having truly lived; to their dismay, they realize that they have pursued a habit of quantification and accumulation and postponed their happiness to a future time that never came.

We feel for these people because they never truly tasted the wonder of the present moment, the fulfillment of the now.  Happiness is never available at any other time than now. The more we postpone joy for the future and make it dependent upon consumption and other conditions, the more we miss it. The only sane solution is to relinquish these insane habits and delve into the joy of the present, even as we learn from the past and plan for the future. Gratitude for what we have, rather than craving for what we do not, is the secret to the joy we seek.


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