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I want that! and that! and that! (a thought on happiness)

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posted on Jul, 25 2008 @ 06:15 PM
For the past week, I have been thinking about some of the things I read on here (reflecting a worldly view) and the things I see on my runs (reflecting a regional view) and even the things I see around home (reflecting a local view). All have one thing I find notable in common.

Most people live their life based on 'things' they buy.

I think back to my childhood. We were 'poor' back then, but we had two vehicles: my father's old '66 GMC pickup and my mother's car. I had plenty of toys, not expensive ones, but ones I still enjoyed playing with. We never went hungry. We had our own house, small, but enough. My father never really had a 'career', but he always had a job.

We got a black-and-white TV, a Zenith floor console model, before anyone else in the neighborhood did. I still remember neighbors coming over to watch TV with us. It wasn't long, though, before everyone around had a color TV... except us.

You see, my Dad never worried about having something someone else had. He had what he wanted, and if he wanted something more, he would do what it took to get it. Sometimes, he had to save money for a year or more; other times he found another way. He wanted a riding lawn mower to make cutting the yard easier, but he couldn't afford it. So he got an old Yazoo walk-behind self-propelled lawn mower and rigged up a harness to pull my red wagon behind it and still be able to work the controls. He had what he wanted, and folks still talk sometimes about seeing him sitting in a lawn chair in that little wagon behind his 'riding lawn mower'.

He wanted a small tractor to help with cutting firewood, but at the time he couldn't afford one, and really wasn't happy with what was available anyway. he wanted something that could jump the rocks in the mountain and had enough power to drag a decent-sized tree behind it while jumping. So he made himself a forge out of limestone rocks and an old hand-cranked blower he found at a yard sale. He bought a Briggs-and Straton engine and hooked it up to a series of belts and pulleys with a lever for a clutch. He found old car parts in various salvage yards: a steering gearbox, a rear end, a straight-shift transmission. He used his forge to cut and bend and shape sheet steel he picked up from recycling places to make a front end, and he used an old tractor seat off a rusting hulk from yesteryear. He built a tractor from scrap, and it never once failed to pull whatever he needed pulled off that mountain.

Later on, he needed a trailer behind it. He built one out of an old pickup rear end and some lumber from a sawmill. It finally rotted away in the years since his death, but that old tractor is still here, and now belongs to me. Money would not buy it.

Even before that, when he needed a house of his own, he decided he didn't have the money to hire one built, so he decided to build one. He couldn't afford all the lumber, so he struck a deal with a contractor in town who was re-building a store: he would tear the old one down and haul it off for nothing but the materials. Every day after work, he would stop by and start ripping pieces off. He would bring in what he had and store it in his little garage until the job was done. It really didn't take long, as the story goes (I was about a year old, so I really don't have vivid recall of this time), for him to finish his part of the deal, and he built our house with the wood he had salvaged. The house stands today, in view of my window, and is still as solid as the day he drove the last nail. Even before that, he cleared the land by hand, using an old chainsaw and his pickup truck.

I never remember him complaining about needing anything, despite our meager income. I know he never begged, or rarely even asked, for anything; it wasn't in his nature. Now, as I compare the lives of people today to our life back then, I see a stark contrast.

Today, the thought of building one's own house would be considered ludicrous. Add in a barter arrangement to get the lumber, and one would be scoffed at. Make a tractor? Heavens, no, go buy one, complete with A/C, a radio, power steering... don't have the money? Borrow it and get what you want. You can pay later.

be seen on a red wagon instead of a lawn tractor? Preposterous!

Even his philosophy with the TV goes unheeded. Today, someone would feel compelled to do whatever it took to get a color TV as soon as it was available. The neighbors getting one would be the final deciding point; can't let the people next door think we can't afford one. We have to keep up appearances with the latest fashion, the latest novelties, the latest appliances. I see beautiful furniture sitting on the side of the road regularly, waiting for the garbage truck. I know people who have put things like this out, for the simple reason of "we want new furniture". Check around, and you'll likely find that a neighbor just got new furniture every time.

As we have sank into this 'keep up with the Jones' lifestyle, something else has happened: we are angrier. Happiness is said to be found in that new purchase, according to the ads we see all around us. Look at the people in those ads; they are all smiling! That's not a coincidence; it is purposeful, because the advertiser wants you to think that this will make you happy, too.

It won't. Trust me. I almost fell into that trap, and every purchase was a few moments of joy followed by a nagging sense of unfulfillment. Why? Because I hadn't had to really work for it. It was too easy, too simple, just stop by the store and write a check. Now, just type in a card number while at home, and that gleaming new toy will be delivered right to your door, with payments deferred. But let me try to make something, to have to think out a way to get the things I want, and those things bring with them a sense of accomplishment, of fulfillment, and, yes, of joy. I still buy things, but not for the joy they will bring; I buy tools for the joy that using them will bring.

And just as I think we have sunk to the lowest level of materialism, a new level is revealed: entitlements. Now, one no longer has to even work to have a place to live, or food they want. Now, with the aid of 'democracy', big brother will give us the things we want. Now there's no need to even get a job. You can sit around all day and enjoy life, or can you? If just buying what you want leaves a sense of unfulfillment, what does this new way to receive things bring? A deeper hole, and a hopelessness that we are trying to fill with more and more material things. And in this mad rush to satisfy our need for happiness through a method that destroys happiness, we become angry and bitter. We lash out at anyone who disagrees with us, who gets in our way driving to the store for that latest 'fix', who dares try to stop and talk to us about something we don't care about.

It's no wonder we have road rage, school shootings, riots, domestic abuse, or just a rude society in general.

I'm posting this to get your opinion on this trend in society, and what (if anything) we can do to reverse it. I'm not concerned about myself, but for others. I think my admiration for my father, combined with the time I spent with him in my youth, has rendered me immune; a few months back, our old 27" TV started going out (picture would squeeze up a bit). The other day, I splurged and spent hard-earned savings to buy a new TV. I walked right past the nice big HDTV plasma sets (which we might could actually afford) to a little 27" regular TV for about $200. I took it home and plugged it in and really enjoyed a night of watching it without the picture squeezing together. So did my family. We were happy with our new TV, and we still are.


posted on Jul, 25 2008 @ 06:32 PM
Personally I think this materialism you see in society today is because hype up of everything in the media.

And where is the media today?
I can hardly do anything except for going out hiking and stuff like that without seeing the newest greatest product shooved down my throat.
And eventually I think people just start to think after seeing all of that, that they need it.

well good post starred and flagged!!!

posted on Jul, 25 2008 @ 06:33 PM
Good point, materialism and greed are big factors on this planet.

But imo the problems are the people that get born rich and will never be able to feel how it is on the bottom of the ladder.

It works the other way around too, if you are lucky and can climb up the ladder and make a good buck your standards become higher.

And when you have all that luxury some people seem to forgotten where they started and have created an ego bigger than their heart on the way to the top.

Grey Magic.

posted on Jul, 25 2008 @ 06:42 PM
Thank you for your post.

I think one issue is that everything is marketed as being cheap, easy and fast, guaranteed to satisfy.

Only the funny thing about human nature is that enduring satisfaction comes from hard work and/or ingenuity. As such, it's inevitable that there will be a dissatisfaction when the world is just handed to you. An emptyness that comes from knowing deep down you did not earn it.

The world's answer to this discontent? Buy more to fill up the hole left by the empty feeling. But even that is only fleeting, as our measure for happiness by today's standards is not authentic and has no real value.

I think this is the crossroads where America stands. We are not living up to our full potential. We have not all earned our freedoms. Some are just skating by on the sweat of their fellow citizens. Whether CEO or welfare recipient, everyone needs to contribute something of value. Hard work builds character.

posted on Jul, 25 2008 @ 06:44 PM

Originally posted by Grey Magic
Good point, materialism and greed are big factors on this planet.

And the media trys to appeal to everybody.
So they advertise for the emtions we all have.
Like greed and they try to make it look nautral.
So when we feel greedy or what ever we think its normal because of how they portray it in the media and as I posted before the media everywhere now so.
Nautrally the majority becomes greedy and matrialistic.

posted on Jul, 25 2008 @ 07:05 PM
one of the reasons I gave up the cable tv years ago.

the tv just took over a lot from the newspapers to influence the people.

The greed of a select group of people is good enough to take with 10% of the people 90% of the money and wipe out most classes so the control is easier...

posted on Jul, 25 2008 @ 07:49 PM
reply to post by Grey Magic

It works the other way around too, if you are lucky and can climb up the ladder and make a good buck your standards become higher.

The way I see it, the higher you set your standards, the farther you have to fall. If I have to fall, it is nice to be living a few feet above the floor.


posted on Jul, 25 2008 @ 08:58 PM
The commercial media exists to turn people into consumers.

The media subtley (and not so subtley) distract people from their real lives into a world of desire for the unattainable. Products are promoted to fill the void created by the message.

Of course the products never satisfy the craving (they aren't even meant to) so it's onto the next fix.

Even as a cynic the message is so hard to resist. It comes sugar coated in things we want to hear, and the solution (in the form of products) always seem so easy, and so harmless. It's only when you are left with a bunch of useless stuff, false friend, meaningless experiences and credit card debt that you experience the real taste of their lies.

The message is almost impossible to avoid, even walking down the street we get bombarded by the message on buses and billboards.

Advertising revenue is generally seen as a good source of income. Adds can be plastered over what would otherwise be a blank space creating revenue for nothing, so there is no incentive on anyone to try and limit exposure.

It is up to the inidividual to take control of their own mind. It takes consant mental discipline to reject the messages, and you can end up feeling like a cynical outcast and extremist.

The reward of course, is peace of mind and freedom. Well worth it in the end, but a long, hard and ongoing struggle to get there and stay there.

posted on Jul, 26 2008 @ 02:23 AM
I certainly agree with the OP. When I sit back and look at it, I am amazed at the amount of materialism that is in the world today. People do live from object to object, fleeting desire to fleeting desire. They are so distracted by what the want that they never take the time to think about what they are.

I wonder, at what age does someone who lives this way actually start to wonder what life is really about? Can they possibly go their entire life living like that? Do they actually live a better life than I am giving them credit for?

Who knows..... It is not like I am actually in a position to judge or anything. As I type this on my state of the art PC, with my broadband internet, waiting to go to work so I can buy more things.........

posted on Jul, 26 2008 @ 09:44 AM
reply to post by Karlhungis

It is not like I am actually in a position to judge or anything. As I type this on my state of the art PC, with my broadband internet, waiting to go to work so I can buy more things...

I submit that it is not the 'state of the art PC' that is the problem, but what you expect out of it. It looks to me like you are using it for a tool, to express your opinions and broaden your mind. That will bring joy, whereas having it sitting there for others to envy will not. Therein lies the real problem.

WalMart just sold a Toshiba laptop, 15.4", 2GB RAM, 120 GB HD, Intel for $398, limited quantities, definite sale time. A comparable HP was $200 more. I bought one, brought it home, opened it up, and turned it on to make sure it worked. Then I turned it off, put it back in the box, and turned on this old Toshiba with the bad keyboard and the broken lid hinge to have some fun.

It's a backup unit; that's all it was ever intended to be. I bought it in case mine ever really broke and I needed one for a spare, and I bought it so my daughter could have a decent laptop for her schooling. It brought me happiness in that I was able to provide for her, not that I had a new toy. My old toy is still my fave, dirty screen and bad CD drive notwithstanding.

In other words, it is not the toy that is the problem, it is the expectations attached to it.


posted on Jul, 26 2008 @ 10:15 AM
reply to post by TheRedneck

A star for you sir.

Back in my forties I realized that I had everything that I needed... that is not to say that there were not things that I wanted, but that is not the same. That realization was quite refreshing and empowering.

I have always been poor but I realized long ago that just because I was poor did not mean that I had to live poorly and have happliy improvised when ever I get the chance. Its nice to have new things if I can afford it, but if I have to i will settle on second hand and yard sale items.

The other issue Redneck (and even though we don't always agree, I have found you far more thoughtful than your moniker would suggest) is the whole issue of I deserve...

I recently had one fellow assert that as Americans we deserve or are entitled to cheap gas... I have heard that we deserve to be happy or to love and all of that....

.... we deserve nothing except a shot at living.

Everything else is up to us and what we cannot do compassion and mercy can help fill in the cracks.

[edit on 26-7-2008 by grover]

posted on Jul, 26 2008 @ 10:32 AM
reply to post by grover

(and even though we don't always agree, I have found you far more thoughtful than your moniker would suggest)

Ah, but I submit to you, sir, that my moniker suggests nothing. The suggestion you refer to is in the mind of the reader. As is all racism, sexism, bigotry, and prejudice. That is why I have adopted it; in an attempt to prove the falsehood of words having inherent connotations. The only connotations are in our own feeble minds.

But enough off-topic ranting. Thank you for the insightful post and the star. I now return you to your regularly-scheduled topic.


posted on Jul, 26 2008 @ 11:11 AM
My husband built a woodsplitter. I big one. One of the parts is a beer keg. He likes to tinker with stuff like your dad. He also grew up poor, so they learned how to fix their own farm equipment. Each of the five boys has a skill of one kind or another. Electrical, woodworking, metal fab, auto stuff, etc. We grew up "rednecks" as well. I have a more worldly traveled life than him though. My family's money growing up was cyclical. We had it and then we didn't. My husband still values his purchases and thinks them through pretty carefully.
I knew a family who built their own house. It is a beautiful cabin and they are very natural and organic. They fascinated me.
Not everyone grows up in the country, or has a father that tinkers with stuff. No one to teach them those skills.
I believe that the negative materialism going on in the world was/is a necessary lesson for us. We had to push it is far as we could to find the limits. People are waking up to it all over the world. I think we need to be patient while we learn this. I think we shouldn't judge people so harshly for not having figured it out yet. It is hard to imagine living a life in luxury until you have had the chance, it is even harder for some to imagine being poor and learning to live a more simple life.
I also believe that more and more people have come to value what it was like with less stuff, and have wanted or have gone back to doing those things. I hear people talking about it all the time. The things we do value will stay though. Like broadband and the internet. The Green movement is also gaining a hold, and buying organic, may turn into people growing their own food again. Learning to can, and sew. We should never forget how to do those things anyway.

posted on Jul, 26 2008 @ 01:12 PM
reply to post by seagrass
Sometimes 'harshness' is required to get one's point across. Modern life is so easy and comfortable that it is easy to forget that it is also inherently unrewarding.

I am glad that people across the globe are waking up to this. But simply waking up is not enough. Change in attitude is required, and as long as this doesn't happen, these awake people will still not be happy.

As for the skills you mention, they are indeed important. I have found that those who harbor these disappearing skills are usually more than happy to be able to teach them to anyone willing and eager to learn. I know I am. All you have to do is ask.

BTW, if anyone in North Alabama knows how to make good 'shine, that is one skill I would love to help keep alive. You have a willing and eager student here.


posted on Jul, 26 2008 @ 05:14 PM
reply to post by TheRedneck

Excellent thread, my father is the same as yours. We wern't rich, i never had fancy toys so i made do with other things. Like the local woods, i spent most of my childhood running around that place, it actually taught me a lot as my dad bought me an animal tracking guide and i spent ages learning all the little signs and trails.

When things broke we fixed them, it instilled a mentality in me that hasn't left, when stuff breaks my first thought is to fix it, it's rare i buy something new. I wonder what other ATS members see in their rooms when they look around typing on ATS? Here's what i see.

I see two bookcases filled with books, a few dvd's and some blank dvd's. I see wo guitars (one electric one acoustic), i see a keyboard, an amp and a harmonica. I see the lockbox i made to pracitce my lockpicking hobby, i see my computer (which is old) and my laptop (which is also old). I don't owna tv as i use the net for most things, my parents have one but i don't watch it much.

I also see my cat laid across my chair, i swear she uses that thing more than i topic sorry. The only other thing i own are various nit nacks (like a cuddly toy) and a metal grinder downstairs i use to make homemade lockpicks instead of buying new ones.

Anyway i think you're right, this idea that things will make you happy has been sold to us (no pun intended) very well. People get this momentary high as they buy something, it's like a pavlovian reward system we've set up. Someone buys something and gets a small surge of endorphins like the good little consumer they are. Sadly it's a hollow high, just like any drug addiction, and that's what it seems like to me, an addiction.

You are so very right when you talk about making something yourself and feeling the satisfaction. I could have bought a new bird box, but i bought the wood and made it myself, whenever i see the birds using it i feel very good about myself. I could have paid for the wooden potting table in the garden but i made it myself, same for the bench out there.

I'll never understand the want to keep up with others in regards to possessions. there are far better things to spend your money on.

posted on Jul, 27 2008 @ 03:18 AM
Not everyone with stuff finds their life unrewarding. If you value nice things and it makes you happy to enjoy those things, I don't believe there is anything wrong with it. I do agree that buying things just to have them is probably very unrewarding. But to judge people who have lots of nice things and imply that they have to be unhappy because of it, is presumptive. I know plenty of well-off people who live rewarding lives. Having money doesn't make you unhappy either. It is all in the attitudes and priorities that surround it. If you live an unhappy life, chances are you will live one regardless of whether or not you are poor or rich.

posted on Jul, 27 2008 @ 03:24 AM
I miss the days when I actually got excited about a new computer or a new tech gadget. I used to be that way in my teens. It was awesome.

Now I no longer gets any feeling of happiness at all from buying items and I dont really know why.

posted on Jul, 28 2008 @ 12:14 AM
I think it's interesting how people who have gone way from consumerism often seem to consider it like an awakening. I would say it was certainly the same for me. I had a good job with an upcoming promotion, but I wasn't happy and was giving my life to the company I worked for. So one day I walked away, and decided I was going to find another way. It's been rough at times, really rough sometimes, but I've found a lot more happiness than I had before, and I've gained skills and knowledge that will benefit me for a lifetime. If things ever go really bad, I don't fear how I will survive, because my skills and knowledge will see that I survive. Can you see where Im going with this yet?

We have a society controlled by fear....a fear closely tied to consumerism, and the dependency that it spawns. Not to sound like a CT and all....haha...but most things in life are connected.

posted on Jul, 28 2008 @ 02:19 AM
reply to post by TheRedneck

Good thread, Redneck. I feel the same way about the snowballing materialism in our society. The only reason I describe it as snowballing is because of the fact that you already mentioned, which is the transition from want to entitlement. Materialism is as old as civilization and I don't think it's any worse or more prevalent today than in the 1950s or 1820s or Ancient Rome. But what is new is the idea that people have gotten into their heads that because they want something they somehow deserve it. Or even that if they need something they somehow deserve it.

The reason this is new is that never before have people been given entitlements such as welfare or section 8. People embrace entitlement because they are allowed to and I really think it's as simple as that. People have the right to pursue happiness, not be given it. In fact, people have the right to pursue anything, but they are entitled to nothing they have not earned.

I also wanted to point out that happiness is not the only thing ads are selling. High fashion ads in ladies' magazines (not that I think you would read any of those :p) never show a model smiling. That's catalog work. High fashion ads show models pouting, brooding, screaming, crying, anything but smiling, because they're peddling adventure, excitement, intrigue, and simply having as opposed to achieving.

This whole advertising theme also comes up in a thread I made called How To Let Go not too long ago.

posted on Jul, 28 2008 @ 02:22 AM
reply to post by seagrass

So true, seagrass. I think assuming wealthy people are unhappy is a defense mechanism for those who are jealous. There are unhappy people in every economic stratum just as there are happy people. Though I will say I believe it's much easier to be happy with money than without it, in general people who are so inclined are happy and people who are so inclined are not.

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