My Life – Above Ground

To Consume or not to consume, that is the question
November 19, 2008, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As I write this, I sit in a comfortable office chair, which I’m using only because the old one became tattered and old.  I’m looking at the screen of a laptop that was replaced a few months ago as a result of it only being newer than the last. I’m wearing clothes – all less than one year old, that have replaced, again, old and tattered ones. 

Consumers.  We can all carry that label.  Like rabid animals, we consume everything in front of us – only to throw away things once they’ve reached our own personal use lifecycle. 

I’m someone who considers himself a bit of a stodgy user of aging stuff… but I – like 99.99999% of Americans are the same.  We seemingly can’t help ourselves.  It’s like we’re addicted to stuff.  Newer.  Better. Brighter.  Longer-lasting.  [Insert clever marketing adjective here].

What type of personal and societal culture has this created though?  You can say that it’s the whole ‘keepin’ up with the Joneses’ disease, but I submit that it’s much deeper than that.  I believe underneath it all is a sense of entitlement. 

We may not say it out loud, but “I deserve” is something that many of us feel… deep down.  Think about it.  For example, what happens when the electricity goes out in your home?  When it happens, the first words out of most folks’ mouths are “Come on, when are they going to have this back on!  I need my electricity!  How can they do this to me?!”  We feel like we deserve it.  And this example is only a drop in a very large and deep bucket. 

While it has a great end result, the process of honestly defining ones needs versus ones wants is hard, huh?  Who wants to give up things for which they are accustomed to having?  I lump myself into this too – I think most of us have our needs and wants a bit skewed at the moment.  The current state of the economy is a vibrant depiction of this state of the being, if you will. 

Here’s another example – I helped my dad build a house when I was young.  Times were a bit tough… with building a new home, running a small business and trying to keep 3 kids and a wife fed, clothed, etc.  Well, if we bent one nail when building our home, we couldn’t just keep reaching for a new nail… we straightened the bent one out, and made it work.  This is what we need to do on a more grand scale.  Straightened the nail and make it work. 

In reality, we don’t need the newest, the brightest and certainly not the most expensive.  It might also be a nice exercise for us to do on a macro scale – to “straighten and reuse the nail.”  Make it a habit to consistently ask “do I really need this?”  It will not only make us happier, more contented people, but will also help our economy, our society and our environment become healthier and more sustainable.


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I read through a number of your ruminations, Michael! As for living with less — I couldn’t agree more. In the book,”Three Cups of Tea” — which is about ex-mountaineer Greg Mortenson’s incredible strides toward building schools with the help of many good local people in the most remote, difficult to reach parts of Pakistan — the people live very simply. They see many priveleged Westerners who are there to climb mountains of their own creation, and don’t envy them much. One village leader said that they did not wish for Westerners’ restlessness. But they did need better education for their young people.

We took our very suburban kids to Mazatlan, Mexico when they were about 8, 10 and 12. They saw some poverty — which can be crushing. But they also saw a lot of poor people who had enough. They lived simple, but not deprived lives. It didn’t look so bad (especially in that climate 🙂

Comment by Laura Dockery

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