Happiness and More
Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have even lived a more simple and meager life than the poor. ~ Henry David Thoreau
Hello my friends, this week I have a very simple message for you in your quest to have a happier life, that message is that simply, we don’t need more. I’ve been traveling and one of the many things I like about traveling is that while on the road I read a lot more. My reading of choice for this last week was Bill McKibben’s, The End of Nature, a book written some time ago about global climate change and how man has altered the natural world. To the author our current state of affairs and actions have brought about the end of nature, not in terms of decimation or the end of life on earth, but the end to a state of nature that has fundamentally existed since the beginning of time and that most likely will never exist again. It’s a good read and for me it was personal as the author talks lovingly about the forests of the Adirondack Mountains and this is an area I once lived in and know pretty well.
In the book there is a discussion of how economic development and the idea of always getting more seems to be a driving force for culture, at least the culture of the United States where he and I live. He asks an excellent question, when will there be enough? This question got the wheels in my head turning and I have to echo that question today. When is it enough, is a question that fundamentally addresses our individual ability to be happy. There has to be a point where you have enough, otherwise you are caught in a scenario where you are forever trying to achieve more. This is a disease that is created at the heart of our culture, bred by capitalism and the pursuit of the ever elusive American Dream. So I ask you each, what is enough? What level of car is luxurious and dependable enough? What size house is big enough? How many pairs of shoes?
We are all guilty of this, even when we try to be responsible and even environmentally friendly. Do we need a Prius, a Leaf or would it be enough to drive less, to take the bus once a week. Do we need to buy the latest organic cotton hand sewn clothing made by the indigenous people of wherever? Or would it be enough to go the thrift store and buy some second-hand (reused) clothing? Are we so worried about our image, or being cool that we have to have more?
I’m guessing you know my answer by now, I don’t believe we do. The problem of more is that it impacts so many more things. Needing more means we are forever on the proverbial hamster wheel trying to make enough money to pay for more. We then have less time for quality of life experiences that mean so much more than things. Living simply doesn’t mean giving up the conveniences of the modern world; I’m not suggesting that in any way. I’m just asking if you need to have the full gold cable package, the 54” liquid crystal 3D enabled flat screen TV, a brand new Blue Ray player, the top of the line bicycle, 20 pairs of shoes (wouldn’t 10 be ok) and would it kill any of us to wait 6 more months to have the latest phone. Stepping down to a simpler life doesn’t mean becoming a full-on hippy living in a tent in a forest somewhere, but cutting down on what we perceive we need, to focus on that which truly gives us more in life.
I’m in favor of more picnics, more dinners at home with friends, less work and more relaxation, less spending and more money that allows us to buy experiences instead of things; these are the things that truly bring us more happiness. As always, have a happy day my friends and I hope this piece will help you have more of them. ~ Rev Kane