Since the dawn of agriculture the notion of progress has been interwoven into society’s fabric, while the world continues to innovate people are yearning for novelties to consistently surface. The Internet’s addition has prodigiously connected people and inadvertently sped up life, people loosing touch with patience as instantaneous stimuli has them demanding immediate results. With the acceleration of attention spans and consumer products purchasing preferences are changing daily, and marketing has beguiled people into believing their next acquisition will give them a lasting jovial kick.
In childhood we are continually told to “Reach for the Stars” because “You can do anything you put your mind to”, although great for morale boosting, it also has lead people to neglect the pleasures of the simple life. If someone is incessantly striving for more they are seldom able to appreciate what’s already on their plate, something those living a humbler existence can. Countless philosophers have spoken of the wealth held in being content with a little, yet it seems most people have chosen to be dissatisfied with a lot.
One-Upmanship: “The More I Have The Better I Am”
Fermented in the caldron of capitalism the Western world has modernised with the idea of infinite growth, engendering the individualistic creed of determining one’s worth on the material they possess. For most of society this doctrine has legitimacy to it, the mass media machine has morphed the public into consumers and pitted people against each other in the never ending battle of “Who’s got the best stuff?”
As personalization becomes increasingly prevalent people are less interested in knowing their neighbour and are instead inclined to get one up on them. The haughty display of wealth is rampant throughout society and has even become an admirable characteristic, the ideals of “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” are propagated throughout the arts and people race to emulate their idols. These factors and many others have accumulated to forge the widely prescribed concept of “The more stuff I have, the better my life will be,” shackling individuals to the pursuit of material.
When one’s life is filled with supplementary goods complexity also inflates, having more than others means they have to stay on guard. The more one has the more they have to lose; as people add to their assortment they typically barricade themselves and their possessions from others, isolating individuals from their supposed community.
Instead of being a sure-fire way to happiness it seems life becomes increasingly convoluted when one amasses beyond their means, contentment forever out of reach because their desire knows no bounds.
Avoiding Chaos, Creating Control
Our progenitors didn’t have the means of goods we utilize today, yet were their lives any less rich or meaningful? Previous epochs have showed how a craving for material has consistently created adverse circumstances. Disrobing the desire to justify ones existence through wealth, an individual can be free to comprehensively occupy their time and space, to not seek more but to govern themselves and what they have. In contemporary society we aren’t meant to be okay with the simple life, there’s an urge to seduce people into the establishment’s game and inject them with material.
When reducing life to its basic elements an individual also renders themselves ineligible to live extraordinarily, the common image presented being the simple life doesn’t allow people to reach for the stars; but what does this matter to the person who is already gratified with their life? They see these ambitions as folly, incompatible with the life they’ve selected to lead.
We all quest to achieve a state of satisfaction and in their heart it already resides; why would someone who already has what we aspire to obtain search for more and jeopardise their serine being? Whilst on the rat race there are many features one can begin to neglect; nature and an attentive eye for it, benevolence for ones family/community, a sense of sonder provoking solicitude, these aspects of temperament deteriorating whilst greed becomes glorified.
By only having a small amount of components to contemplate attention can be honed, increasing control of their actions and improving chances of optimally achieving. The man who has all must continually be on guard to protect all he has attained; the man who has nothing is grateful for even the smallest blessing thus, able to find them in nearly every aspect of life. Having less allows freedom to do as one pleases; there is little restricting the individual following their desires, they are not of grandeur but contentment and control.
A main constituent in those electing to lead a simple life is following a path with heart, according to the Shaman Don Juan this is the essential ingredient to knowing if one is heading in the right direction. By harnessing control over a little it can be used aptly; trying to tame abundance habitually creates chaos.
Who’s happier, the person who has worked over 40 hours a week for 30-40 years and amassed substantial material or another who has only worked a few hours a day and spent the rest of the time with family and friends? This really is an individual decision, how one intends to use their time is of their own accord, however, people should really consider if trading vast portions of their most valuable asset is really worth it.
The rise in wealth naturally follows a surge in possession collection, and the more one collects the increasingly diligent they have to be to protect their hoard. In the simple life an individual may have less, but they are more likely to occupy and truly own the time and space they inhabit. The salient feature in one’s choice should be heart; does the path you have selected have heart? If not, it is of no use.
Image Source: Big Sur