The First Steps
I was raised believing that happiness is something simple which is in front of us, all the time. I also believe that in every person’s life there is a precious time where we experience that “aha!” moment (eureka effect), where we suddenly understand something and need to share this understanding.
I had the luck (and you will all understand why I call this luck) to grow up in a poor family in Hungary, where I also had to live the life that society and my parents expected me to live. Trying to quit this, I decided to work on Cruise Ships; as travelling seemed to be the first step to working my way up to my “aha!” moment. Aside from the hard work, I had the chance to see beautiful places and to meet wonderful people. However, a thick fog seemed to be covering my happiness. I had this slight frustration but I did not pay enough attention to notice the signs that are now so obvious.
The “Aha!” Moment
The slight frustration and the fog covering my delight become heavier and thicker as I moved to England with my partner, trying to suit society’s expectations: having a fancy wedding, a well paid job, a car, or two, house, fancy clothes, modern furniture, more stuff to get the “perfect look” and of course, more money. I felt a new urge. An urge to share my feelings and to shout out to people to stop consuming our culture!
Fact: In Britain the average household is consuming as if there were three planets rather than one.
Having only one pair of shoes to wear for an entire year (which I inherited from a sister), never going to a cinema until the age of 18, and a number of other things gave me the best opportunity to appreciate the things that really count in our life. It’s this that I am so grateful for. All of this is not about going to the cinema, or having new clothes, but is instead about realizing how happy I was able to be without it, and in contrast how depressed I found myself when consumed with the opportunity at a “fancy” life.
It was especially during my time working on cruise ships that I learned that luxury, having a hot body (which is completely fabricated by the media), and buying “stuff” is often regarded as the biggest factors in making people happy. Or at least the biggest factors in stuffing their emptiness for a while.
Even I fell into the trap. Until one day when I realized that instead of reading a book I was caught up looking at things on the internet, trying to convince myself that I needed it. I believe that the urge to buy something new, just for the sake of it, has reached a very high point both in the UK and across much of the world. I knew at that point the fog was only the material of a new product that was blocking my inner peace.
“Your existence is basically vomited out of you onto this table full of things, objects that they are trying to sort of help you to exist but actually don’t do that at all.”
“There is one important factor to consider: because the brain’s capacity has evolved the be the most crucial component in the survival and development of the human species it has a built-in predisposition for growth. We are naturally driven to stimulate it. It is why we feel boredom so acutely, why we are mentally restless. Our huge brain capacity is what makes us unique among animals and in its simplest form consumption is nourishment. And so brain food is part of our daily diet. We have become lost in this modern landscape, living to consume. Consumerism isn’t a conspiracy it is very much a reflection of the human mind and this is why we find it so comforting.” – Both quotes are taken from the film Consumed – Is Our Consumer Culture Leading To A Disaster?
Running On The Hamster Wheel
As said by Terence McKenna, we should create our own way instead of following the way designed by cultural engineers. However, we are told in a way that we are not that important, and so there is a solution of consuming stuff to make ourself be a better person. Get a degree, buy new stuff, have botox, etc. Do not be yourself, and instead be someone that the world tells you to be. The fog contaminated by poison. And this motivates us to run faster in the hamster wheel without getting anywhere. Our eyes are closed as we accept the fact that our life is a collection of things created by the media/society.
But can we be free? Can we live without expectations? And why do we want to meet these expectations? This is the real issue. Transition towns, recycling, alternative power, enduring design and everything else we’ve adopted are just attacking the symptoms. As wonderful as they may be, they are also allowing us to continue living the way we are. They are buying us time, and not embracing what I believe to be the root cause– our psychology.
“Are you getting in the cycle of consumption?
To lose your complete freedom of function?
Will you help our companies keep booming?
Product over Product, what you will keep consuming?
But the answer is not another pill.
Because you alone have the will.
And you alone can make a decision.
And make life more than just a vision.”
– Friedrich Grott –
“And if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears.” – Terrence McKenna
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