Monday, January 4, 2016

more or less

Everywhere one looks, one sees commercials urging one to buy, whether it is in newspapers and magazines, on television or radio, on the internet, on outdoor hoardings and banners ----- buy what one does not have whether one needs it or not, buy more of what one has, buy upgraded versions of almost everything one had bought a year , a month , a week ago, buy because there are impressive sales discounts available, buy because celebrities are endorsing a particular product, buy because everyone else is, buy because no one else has and so on and so forth. The idea seems to be to buy first and figure out later why one has made the purchase one has ----- or not figure it out at all !

In a country where millions do have even the necessities of life ----food, clothing, shelter, medical care ------ the rush to buy more and more is almost obscene. It is not as if the poor are even visually segregated from the buyers thronging the markets. The poor are everywhere ----- they work in our homes, they beg on the roads , they stand guard outside the shopping malls, they are building roads, emptying the garbage bins of the half eaten pizzas that we carelessly leave in our plates when we pause to snack between shopping expeditions. They are everywhere, yet we do not see them, and our conscience is not smitten by their tired, unsmiling faces. 

We are blind too to the environmental cost of our unquenchable thirst for material possessions. The mountains of trash that packaging alone creates should perhaps be left outside the shopping malls for the patrons to realize that that which is not in their sight is nevertheless going to end up in a landfill and pollute the air and groundwater for far longer than their lifetimes. It is a terrible legacy to leave for one's children and their children and theirs. While we splurge on possessions we do not even need, the coming generations will pay the price for our profligacy. 

Of course, our lifelong pursuit of a bigger house, a better car, exotic vacations, designer clothes, gourmet meals, etc etc requires that we create the illusion that these comprise a satisfying, even happy, life. We have successfully constructed such an illusion on a scale gigantic enough to encompass almost all of humanity. Material possessions have replaced such attributes of a meaningful life as fulfilling one's potential, creating beauty, and practicing compassion and giving, and we do not step back from our frantic efforts to buy more so as to examine our lives and ascertain whether we are living the life we ought to. We simply assume that the more we buy, the more meaningful our lives will be. That is a false assumption, of course, and at some point we do pause and wonder why we aren't happier than we believed we would be. Unfortunately, such is the strength of our false beliefs that we attribute the lack of happiness to a relative paucity of material possessions rather than to the fact that life has to be more than an exercise in accumulating possessions if it is to fill our hearts and souls with contentment, even joy, and our pursuit of the riches of the material world becomes even more vigorous. The loss is two fold -----as individuals, we live dissatisfied lives without really understanding the reason for our dissatisfaction, and human society loses the richness that individuals engaged in meaningful activity and in creating beauty bring. 

What we need is a global movement to knock down possessions from the pedestal they have been placed on, a global movement on the same scale and of the same urgency as the movement to halt climate change. What good will our lives be in a world in which we as a species manage to survive by tackling climate change if each one of us lives an unhappy life , surrounded by millions and billions of equally unhappy men and women? Of course, there is no gainsaying the fact that one cannot live a happy, meaningful life if one is bereft of food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care etc, but we need to learn to draw a line somewhere. Possessions must serve an objective, not be the goal themselves. 

Pause. Look at your life. Are you doing the best you can with the abilities you were born with? Have you made a difference? Have you created beauty? Are you happy? Is this how you wish to live the rest of your life?

1 comment:

  1. Pause. You are right, Priya. It is always a good idea to pause and think :)