Originally Published for the Bentley Vanguard on March 3rd, 2015
Jim has one winter coat. The coat is black, properly insulated, waterproof, and provides ample warmth. There are no tears or defects to the coat. The coat also matches most of Jim’s daily wear attire as well as his business formal suits. Being fully aware of the condition of his coat, Jim proceeds to purchase two additional coats during the winter season from his local retailer. What was the motivation behind Jim’s decision?
Our distorted concept of necessity seems to stem from the insatiable hunger for more. Perhaps as we delve deeper into the notion of need, we begin to realize that necessity is completely subjective.
Basic human needs include the essentials to survival, namely food and shelter. Anything above these two categories is generally superfluous, whether it is designer brand clothing items, a flashy new car, or a summer home. As I’m sure you’ve all heard before, most things that provide happiness are intangible, items or events incapable of being bought or sold. But how often do people truly take this advice into consideration when making decisions? Is it the need for material possessions that pave the way for our career choices and fundamental motivations?
James Hamblin from The Atlantic states,
“Nothing material is intrinsically valuable, except in whatever promise of happiness it carries”.
While I wish I could take credit for this quote, I readily support Hamblin’s thought process. In the interest of disproving the unfortunate reality of consumerism, we might take into consideration the potential of experiences through material possessions.
Ergo, it’s not about the money, it’s about how you spend it.
While we consistently find ourselves daydreaming about our next paycheck, directing our efforts towards financially supporting our lifestyles, property and ownership are made-up constructs implemented by society. The earth is not yours to own. You may feel a strong emotional connection with an object or a person, but it will never be yours to keep. The flow of nature insists on the eternal recycling of resources and energy, eliminating the concept of yours and mine. Buddhism, founded on the Four Noble Truths, emphasizes the dangers of attachment that may lead to suffering. While realistically, someone may not always be fully free from attachment, a material item should not be the person’s end goal.
We value happiness highly in our lives but the path there is a long and winding one.
While I admit I cannot provide you with the formula to happiness, I truly believe your goals and aspirations will manifest themselves in the most unexpected ways possible. At the end of the day, clothes tear, technology becomes obsolete, and that sweet new BMW of yours will eventually stop running, but memories will last a lifetime.