“Certainly. When you find a diamond that belongs to nobody, it is yours. When you discover an island that belongs to nobody, it is yours. When you get an idea before anyone else, you take a patent out on it: it is yours. So with me I own the stars, because no one else before me ever thought of owning them” said the businessman.
“Yes, that is true. And what do you do with them ?” Asks the little prince.
The businessman replies “I count them and recount them. It is difficult but I am a man who is naturally interested in matters of consequences.”
“The grown ups are certainly altogether extraordinary” the little prince said to himself and continued his journey.
~ THE LITTLE PRINCE
In my youthful naivety, I thought nothing could be more important than collecting stuff because it is the only way to get to happiness. Society and media leaves no stone unturned to make us believe that the sparkle of those shiny dresses and shoes will be promising and everlasting. I thought the questions of our existence, yearning to know the deeper meaning of happiness and contentment were only a form of distraction to what I am meant to achieve.
Because celebration only means buying that new bag or that new pair of shoes. Our culture establishes deep-rooted beliefs in us. It teaches us that our paradise island only comprises of ownership and possessions. It doesn’t bother us to introspect beyond that.
In my years of practicing Buddhism, I was exposed to a fascinating concept. I was thrilled when I got to know something like that and a little disappointed with my formal schooling years which never introduced me to such an idea. The way to become a great leader is to create leaders even better than you. One can never become a true leader by manipulating or perhaps by doubting the potential of human beings in the society.
The above idea authenticates the existence of the ripple effect, leaders creating better leaders, happiness creating more happiness, sadness creating more sadness. This would naturally authenticate the ripple effect of materialism, hence materialism creating more materialism and thereby leading us all to a narrow path of creation of ownership and possessions.
We can easily find ourselves lost in this rabbit hole and can only find our way back when we segregate happiness and materialism. It is certainly not that I live my life zen like and is already rid of all the material possessions, nothing like that. It is only where I know that my happiness has firm grounds on human connections that I form and not the stuff that I collect. It is also to be aware that stuff can easily distract me from the human bonds that I cherish and can tell me a different story.
The more connected we are to the world, the more it has been trying to convince us that our worth has a quantity which can be counted by the material objects.
It has been proven that we aren’t happier than our forefathers but are actually struggling with many more mental health issues than them. Considering the obvious incorporation of material belongings in our life, we presumed that our happiness was guaranteed but the evidence suggests a completely opposite record.
I am glad that I have come to realise this when I am comparatively young and have been trying my best to not chase materialism but rather live a simple and sustainable lifestyle.
Some of the ideas to gain freedom from material possessions are
1. Understand that less is more
When we stuff our closets and houses with things, it is very natural for us to forget to have a closer look at them. We unconsciously skim through things which further never encourages us to inculcate a habit of being grateful. It is time when we go through each object in our house closely enough and gauge if we really would use it or should rather go ahead with putting it in the charity.
2. Know that materialism will only create materialism.
From time to time, we do need to consciously remind ourselves to not get lost in the madness of material culture. Our lives should not be driven by consumption or purchases but rather the lives we are connected to. Materialism can easily pull us in the relentless cycle of replacing the old with the newer version. We will have to deliberately shift our focus and really reflect upon what truly matters.
3. Be aware that material possessions can blind you and distract you from your goals.
Material objects have an inherent power to blind us and portray us a false sense of happiness. It can exhaust us and leave no time to nurture our relationships. Our relationships are not built on stuff but rather understanding each other, good communication, empathy and gratefulness. Researchers have proved that clutter is stressful and people who keep their cupboards and wardrobes full experience more negative emotions. The material culture drills us to be obsessed with buying that ‘next thing’. Then for what reason are we spending our energy on clutter ?
Materialism can also push us away from our real goals. Have you been avoiding that piece of write up that you wanted to write for so long ? Have you been procrastinating the new work-out which you had wanting to learn ? Think about your real goals and then go ahead with the idea of de-cluttering.
4. How about a garden TV ?
A lot of us spend our energy to have the biggest size of TV in our houses and glossy things. Our houses are filled with fancy furniture and magazines. How about we decide to go green instead and nurture our homes with a garden TV.
In the story of THE LITTLE PRINCE, when the prince visits the planet of the businessman, the businessman while counting money tells him that he is busy with the matters of consequences. The inquisitive little prince could not keep his questions to himself and asked if the ownership of stars would be of some use to the businessman. The businessman was left with no answer to the question.
The story asks us to think about the real matters which are of consequences to us. It doesn’t plainly rejects the idea of ownership but instead asks us to have a deeper perspective on it.
Just think, what are the real matters of consequences to you ? Think again, what really counts.