Consumerism and happiness

I hate consumerism. More stuff will not make anyone happy. Maybe a child. I understand collections and getting a set of things and so forth. Stuff that edifies. But at the same time, our culture is to accumulate more and more stuff. What we have, what we buy defining us. I’m no Puritan or pietist or one to renounce things–I like music and books. But I don’t have a compulsion to buy stuff.

When I was younger, I accumulated collectibles, video games, gems, fossils, toys. But once I sought meaning, a deeper understanding of the world, literature, astronomy, the arts that stuff paled in comparison. I wanted the richer things in life. Not stuff. The richer things: music, the intricacies of classical music, great literature which speaks of how the world is and how human beings have always been. Travel. Culture. Things that mean a lot to me anyway.

(This isn’t a black and white issue. I am not condemning things or those who have things. Just commenting. There is a deeper meaning than stuff is what I am getting at–I hope).

Things that brought meaning and purpose in the past (and hopefully continue to) is exploration: the ocean, lands; music, aesthetics, art, theology, philosophy, literature, all the studies to discover the world.

We all have a void within us. An emptiness. What do we fill it with? Buying stuff maybe. Information. Knowledge. Understanding. Wisdom. Happiness. Pursuit of truth. A relationship with God. Many different things and experiences? We all need a purpose.

What of happiness? I like being happy. I do have a tendency toward melancholy. Caused by my own actions. Caused by other’s actions. Boredom. Losing sense of purpose. Happiness is the first thing many want to pursue in this age, especially this culture. There is nothing wrong with happiness. But life is full of disappointment. Suffering. Unhappiness.

Coupling consumerism with happiness, usually results in using human beings as expendable. So and so brings me happiness now. But when happiness ends with that person, there has to be someone else. Someone better. New and improved. I may be overgeneralizing here. But I deceived myself into this way of thinking.

I am not saying that the accumulation of things will lead to non-committal attitudes. But I am say that consumerism bleeding into culture and pervading thought will affect a person’s outlook. Pop culture is the easiest to follow because it’s right in front of us. But pop culture does not have all the answers. It’s important to learn about other cultures present and past. Have a well rounded education so a person knows what they are looking at. Understanding the world a little more. Understanding the person a little more. But all the knowledge in the world will not bring happiness.

I would say the Christian faith is the first place someone should follow and not only with the mind. Happiness isn’t in the pursuit of things. Not even knowledge, as King Solomon discovered. What gives meaning to the world? Solomon would say God. And he is the wisest king to ever live, ancient and modern.

Last Sunday I heard a homily and the priest was saying that happiness is a by-product. I would have to agree. Of course we want to be with someone who makes us happy. And do things that make us happy. But the sole aim of happiness becomes an idol all its own. Happiness becomes what we worship.

The only One deserving worship is God. All else will be given from that point. (A very difficult lesson to learn). God help me.


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