Sunday, March 20, 2011

Materialism - When Your Possessions Posses You

‘Money, money, money; must be funny, in a rich’s man’s world.

Money, money, money; always sunny, in a rich’s man’s world.’

Take this scenario. You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.

Sounds familiar?

Materialism – When Your Possessions Possess You.

It’s a fact that money makes the world go round. Those who deny probably have too much of it to be able to afford to say otherwise. However, what we must realise is that money is not the root of all evil. No, it is the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil. There is nothing wrong with striving to reach the top of the corporate level, nothing wrong with spending your hard earned cash on a new Lamborghini, nothing wrong with saving for that dream vacation to the Caribbean. But there is something very wrong when all you can think of after getting the new Ipad 2 is, ‘When will I get the Ipad AYEVANTMOUR??!’

How then do we realise that we have sunk into materialism? How then do we realise we have entered a meaningless rat race to outbid each other in an attempt to obtain more, more, more? Here’s a simple checklist. When you are materialistic, you end up being selfish, self-centered and self-less.

The problem with materialism is that it affects us as an individual. We degrade ourselves into selfish beings that can only see things for ourselves. Yes, anything we strive to own we want to own to increase our satisfaction. Any economist will tell you that. They would also go on to say that happiness is reality divided by expectations. To increase happiness, either improve your reality or decrease your expectations. Materialistic people seek to improve their reality by surrounding themselves with more. They are quick to fall in love with a certain new item only to be quicker to fall out of love with it once it is theirs. Whatever they do, they seek only for individual contentment. For them, the chase is better than the prize. The people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment. Take this analogy to illustrate the point.

A brand-conscious, pompous, loaded lawyer just finished work and was headed downtown. It’s a dodgy area with some unsavoury characters but that’s where the night life begins. As he steps out of the car, a horrific accident occurs as a drunk driver rams into the bumper of his brand new Mercs just as he was about to close the door. It was bloody. The police and the paramedics were alerted and they rushed to the scene. The lawyer was absolutely lived. He demanded to file a lawsuit against the driver. The constable taking his statement said, ‘Calm down sir, can’t you see that you’ve lost your arm??’ The lawyer yelled, ‘HOLY COW THAT IDIOT TOOK MY ROLEX!’ We can laugh, but a materialistic person can forget about everything else that besides their possessions which are their pride and joy. They become so inward looking that they fail to see anyone else around them which brings us to the next problem.

Materialism breeds self-centredness. Self-centredness is not to be confused with selfishness. While selfishness means only looking out for individual concerns, self-centredness in this context refers to the failure to notice people as people. Materialistic people often have problems with interpersonal relationships. They have a tendency to only value things on how much they’re worth. This would be largely because they themselves base their value on how much they own. To them, those with more will garner more respect compared to those with less. In monetary terms of course. They fail to be able to look past the outer layer of possessions and connect to another person, soul to soul.

Take for example Mother from Memoirs of a Geisha. ‘When she walked down the street, her mind was probably working like an abacus: “Oh, there’s little Yukiyo, whose stupidity cost her poor older sister nearly a hundred yen last year! And here comes Ichimitsu, who must be very pleased at the payments her new danna is making”. If Mother were to walk alongside the Shirakawa Stream on a lovely spring day, when you could almost see beauty itself dripping into the water from the tendrils of the cherry trees, she probably wouldn’t even notice any of it – unless ... I don’t know ... she had a plan to make money from selling the trees, or some such thing’. People aren’t looked as people but merely owners. Materialism is like a boulder that prevents them from real meaningful communication, one of the most beautiful things in life.

At the end of the day, materialism blocks everything meaningful in life. To be self-less is not selfless. To be self-less is to lose your humanity. And it’s true that materialism will end reducing one into an automaton, somewhat akin to a safety deposit box. It hoards the things they deem valuable; the money, the gold. But inside that box, what they value most will not be able to grow into something more. It gathers dust and all it while it can purchase a nice coffin to be buried in, it cannot buy the people who will mourned the emptiness you left behind. Materialistic people fear death because everything they hold dear here to is temporal. Anything that is physical will never last forever. They miss out on life because materialism is like rose-tinted glasses, unable to see the full brightness and beauty of the things around them. In Harry Potter terms, they’re like Muggles, unable to comprehend the sheer magic of Life.

We all want things. There is nothing wrong with life. But let’s not forget that there is more to life than material possessions. Have you wondered why the people with the least are often the most content? They discovered the secret; there must be more to life than having everything. They are happy living life, growing old, satisfied with their lot. To quote a conversation from Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom tells his professor Morrie, ‘Why do people always say “Oh, if I were young again.” You never hear people say, “I wish I was sixty five.” Morrie smiles. “You know what that reflects? Unsatisfied lives. Unfulfilled lives. Lives that haven’t found meaning. Because if you’ve found the meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more. You can’t wait until sixty-five.”

We are made to enjoy God’s greatest gift – Life. Don’t throw it away chasing meaningless tangibles. After all, the best thing in life aren’t things.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

lol!!! zee!! i have to admit i'm a bit of a materialistic person.... sometimes, okay, most of the time my mind works like the mother in memoirs of geisha...LOLLL!!!! i can't help it!! it just ratting in my mind! especially when it comes to ppl's personality. my mind will work like an abacus by " predicitng their future" based on their personal behavior! yes, it is painfull emotionally when u can't tell them!! they will call u mad!!! sometimes, it is not a gift, but a curse... =)u can say i behave materialistically in ppl's souls. Because, my friend..... when u invest knowledge or money and the right attitude to the right person, that person will save humanity, mankind, and even ourslves. =) -xiao xi