How many of the holes we’re chasing to fill in life aren’t really there? These manufactured lacks or shortcomings we’ve been compelled to feel the need to plaster over – never feeling we’re quite “enough” without the next thing. Striving after such goals may be what modern economy is built around, but is it any kind of foundation for living within a finite landscape?
Isn’t it that economic activity generally goes hand in hand with marketing? All those intent on convincing us we need whatever it is they’ve been tasked to sell; making us believe our lives are somehow incomplete or far short of what they could’ve been without it. All these promises around how easy, admirable and satisfying our existence will become. Filling us in on all these problems we never knew we had. (Notes One)
Surely, it’s a chase we’ll never win? There’s always going to be more: the next development; the next sign of change on our path through this human condition; the next desire fluttering up as we seek to feel better about ourselves. As if “all this” is built around telling us what we’re missing; this constant effort at undermining any self-worth or peace we might have.
Almost as if the human psyche is an endless source of demand; easily swayed by ideas of not fitting in, standing out or living up to our potential. Is it because we’ve built society on competition? Setting us all against each other for a limited amount of praise or wealth. Making everyone feel that if we don’t keep up, we’ll fall behind and drop out.
As if life’s a treadmill we can’t step off or we’ll lose our place in this race. As if our acceptance and belonging is tied to this pursuit of things and the status they’ll give us in the eyes of others – social identity and worth, somehow, having been tangled up in all we can buy. As if the value of any human life can take on the form of a financial calculation (Notes Two).
Isn’t it natural that we want to belong? To be accepted, recognised, heard, understood, loved by others of our kind? Don’t we want to matter to people? To feel ourselves reflected considerately in their eyes and words. To feel valued within our community, as much for our contributions as for our very presence. As if the frame of our life is held respectfully alongside all others. (Notes Three)
And, while we’re chipping away at personal security with all these suggested shortcomings, how many other problems are we serving to set in motion? We might never actually be able to set straight all the things we’re damaging or destroying in the world around us – all the communities, ecosystems, resources and livelihoods being disrupted for relatively short-term gain.
Unravelling the delicate, elusive line between all we really need in life and all that’s grown up around those requirements seems important, if we’re not to upset the balance our lives truly depend upon.
Notes and References:
“Happiness” by Steve Cutts, November 2017: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9dZQelULDk
Note 1: Markets, and what they might mean
Note 1: Values, and what’s in evidence
Note 1: Making ends meet
Note 2: Mathematics of life
Note 2: Worthless, or priceless?
Note 2: Value and meaning in our lives
Note 3: What does community mean?
Note 3: Can “how we relate” really change?
Note 3: This thing called love
An interesting representation of all this can also be found in Steve Cutts’ animation “Happiness”.