Friday, May 2, 2008

Hold The Bling

You are the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not sure exactly what that means but it sounds good and there just may be some truth to it. It came to me, what can I say? Something has occurred to me for awhile now. It will sound self-righteous to talk about but better to sound self-righteous on your blog than some other places.

It seems to me that a lot of people have no idea how to be happy. Maybe that’s not the right way to say it… What I mean is not many people seem to know how to facilitate their own happiness. I don’t think it’s any secret that as the wealthiest nation on Earth we are also the most heavily medicated and depressed/discontent. Serious depression is really another issue but the kind of low-level unease and discontent that I am talking about is very obviously rampant but also completely unnecessary.

From what I can tell there is a very simple cause for our collective dis-ease and it can be easily understood by recognizing how unprofitable personal contentment is. Factor in the overwhelming amount of advertising that the average person is exposed to, taking into account the proven fact that television puts a person into a semi-hypnotic and very suggestible state, and the picture starts to become very clear. There is a multi-billion dollar industry whose sole intention is to foster discontent and want. There is a very precise science behind it. Most people are aware of political propaganda but even more pervasive in our culture is commercial propaganda. We could call it “The War Against Your Personal Sense Of Satisfaction” or maybe “The War On Happiness”. It’s pretty easy to be defeated when you don’t even know you are being attacked.

It has become very clear to me that most of the population is slaving away and devoting their precious time and energy to chase a dream that someone else has defined for them. We are told what to want with such frequency and tenacity that eventually most of us give in, even if only subconsciously. Life really becomes one big commercial unless you make a very deliberate effort to make it otherwise.

Somewhere along the way we bought into the notion that we are incomplete beings. The truth is that there is absolutely nothing that can be added to any one of us. We are already whole, no credit card necessary. Happiness is an internal affair. In my humble opinion western psychology and religion have let us down when it comes to the art of happiness and practical matters of living well. Even our God is taught to be “out there”. All of the things that we are supposed to want are external. But any one of us could discover at any moment that everything a person could ever want or need is already right there within them.

There is a war for our attention and the things we focus on and think about most often will become our living reality. Individually speaking, external conditions become a reflection of one’s internal state. As a result of living on a constant diet of advertising and peer pressure from others on the same diet, many of us are in a state of perpetual want. And all of the things that we are supposed to want (and buy) and are supposed to separate us from the crowd and be such exquisite expressions of our personal individuality and self-worth are things that everyone is buying or already has. Most of the coveted symbols of success can be attained by almost anyone as long as they are willing to make the monthly payments and hey, most people are. I’m really not sure what’s so wonderful about driving an expensive new car or carrying a $200 handbag when you can barely make your minimum credit card payment as it is and at the price of your own sanity and peace of mind, but what do I know? You look around and this is what you see.

To the modern mind this is a preposterous concept; that happiness has nothing to do with what one possesses. But anyone who turns off the tv for a few days and steps away from the mass marketing blitzkrieg and maybe takes a little time each morning to sit alone and just be with themselves and their mind that hasn’t yet had time to be stirred up by the onslaught of the day’s events and the usual broken record thought patterns…(deep breath)…anyone who begins to do this on a regular basis and makes a concerted effort to escape from the mass mind will quickly understand the utter un-importance of just about any ‘thing’ as it relates to their happiness and well-being.

Yes, there is such a thing as a mass mind and group-think and escaping from it can be a bit like untangling oneself from a giant spider web but it can be done. Maybe human size fly paper is a better analogy than a spider web. The point is that is anyone can do it with a little will power and a willingness to acknowledge being stuck in something that really isn’t very good for you. So what if everyone else is doing it.

Really…the best things in life are free. If I continue to write blog posts about subjects and sentiments that are important to me that is probably a phrase that I will say quite often. The best things in life are free. I’ve found this to be true in my own life and by observing the lives of others. It would seem to me that what would be worthwhile is to pursue being free as a person, free from whatever it is that binds you, starting with that pile of possessions that you already have but don’t need and more importantly that mountain of possessions that you think you want and all the associated stress and energy wasting that goes along with acquiring it. There’s physical clutter and mental clutter but the former is significantly easier to dispose of than the latter. The removal of both is necessary if any of us are to find what it is that we are looking for.

An authentic pursuit of happiness and well-being has nothing to do with the fashion or pharmaceutical industries despite the fact that they spend billions trying to convince you otherwise. What everyone really wants is genuine happiness and peace of mind which, unfortunately, are in direct conflict with the popular culture of hyper-consumerism. Don’t try to buy what you already have. It’s already right there. All of this other stuff is just blocking your view.


A said...

I couldn't agree more with your observations of human nature. Honestly I do think many people are aware of these truths but it is just easier to go along with everyone else. It takes effort and TRUE understanding. Even if you have that true understanding it can seem like you are swimming upstream while everyone else is going with the flow and eventually you give in because it SEEMS easier. Little do we all know that what seems easier in the long run only brings much more suffering than had we continued to persevere and swim upstream. I have and continue to be a victim of buying what I think will make me whole. I have good and bad moments but the fact that I am aware and continually trying to not be blinded makes me happy enough. Thanks for the insight always refreshing!

Anonymous said...

I got so disgusted with consumerism I went all the way the other way into a new look which is actually an old look. I adopted this style from some elderly and very very proper relatives who live with holes in their sweaters. The more holes, the more interesting and eccentric they become to me. None would be caught dead in something new. Jewelry, gauche. Designer logos ... NEVER! No make up, no haircolor, natural is the style and I must say, it looks so nice. They are immune to advertising. They are from a time when it was in the single digit percentile of newspapers and magazines and always thought of, if they thought of it at all, as crass and cheap. It pains them to shop. Everything they value is useful and treasured for entire lifetimes and longer, passed down from one generation to the next.
I already have eccentric down, but I am hoping that walking around in rags will insulate me from becoming just another merchandise consumer unit on somebody's regional graph although really, sigh, its already too late.

Rip it up Ben, Nina

Ben There said...

Nina, If everyone had that attitude the economy would collapse. Either that or we would have much fuller, richer lives.

(I have holes in some of my clothes too, but I think I paid extra for 'em.)

Candycane said...

Great post Ben...I too am constantly examining things on the "is this a keeping up w/ the Jones idea" because F that. I was related to the jones and they got divorced after 20 "happy" years and their whole american dream w/ the mercedes went to hell in a hand basket. I love knowing that I make me happy, that my kids smile makes me happy, that the best times are when I'm holding Michaels hand.....but if you think I'd ever in one million years give up my bleach blond highlights, my casper white teeth, my fake n bake tan or a few essential items from the Gap, then you ON CRACK.
But, like you said, the economy would crash. I don't highlight my hair b/c society thinks I should or Vidal sassoon thinks I should, I do it b/c I look good. lol

Anonymous said...

Ben, please visit my artblog sometime. I am linking to you but could not find an email address for you anywhere on your website to send you a private note.

All the best, peace,

This is my second attempt to publish comment, please delete it if its a dupe of the first. Merci

Ben There said...

Nina -

You are very talented! I love watercolor. Very nice work. I'll definitely be back when I can spend more time there. (I only browsed around page 1.)

Thanks for linking to me. I didn't see an option to comment on your blog or I would have written there.

Eventually I'll get around to adding links here and you'll definitely be on the list.

Anonymous said...

As soon as I find the right web host I will have comments. There doesn't seem to be that option where I am now. Something will show itself one of these days and I will just relocate.
I am so glad you visited! For real. Thank you!

Again, sorry if this is a dupe.

Anonymous said...

Ok, Ben, something good with a comments feature finally came to me. Still moving in the boxes, but visitors are welcome anytime.

PS hope your new change was a positive one and all you thought it should be has turned out just right.

All the best to you!