The value we’re giving to things

How much value are we giving to the things we have in life? Sometimes, it really seems that belongings have come to define us – how others see us and we see ourselves. As if life were simply this accumulation of choices that we’ve made about the kind of person we are, the way we wish to be seen, and what it all says about us.

We very much seem to be told, these days, that surrounding ourselves with things that suit our personality and pulling them together to express our own unique style “is” what it is to be human (Notes One). And, that “reading” others using that code is the way to understand where they stand and how much you have in common. Things, effectively, stepping in to tell the world who we all are as people.

It’s the kind of thinking that must serve business pretty well, while casting us all as perpetual consumers in pursuit of the next development. If “this” is where identity, acceptance and belonging happen, the idea of not playing the game perhaps seems risky; as if you might disappear or be judged poorly by not joining in. If this marketplace of options is how we’re to understand one another, it seems quite a powerful thing.

But don’t all these things also have only passing value? The fact we chose them perhaps mattering more than the notion of keeping them. Rather than possessions being few and far between, carefully maintained, essentially functional items to help with life’s necessities, they’re now seeming disposable almost to the point of being discarded as soon as they’re selected.

When there’s so much choice, so many cheap and accessible options, perhaps the idea of having “more” overtakes the idea of anything having much worth (Notes Two). As if we’re desensitised to the relative luxury of having what we need and losing sight of what belongings actually add to our lives. When things are scarce, do we better appreciate their value? Less being more in the sense of focussing us on what truly matters.

On the other side, though, what’s the cost of it all? Given how little now seems designed to last, the amount of resources being used up and waste being generated by this way of operating must be fairly considerable. Then, socially, there’s all the time we spend chasing things and believing they complete us – the psychological burden of that, plus the kind of conversations we end up having around what’s actually important. (Notes Three)

It just seems fascinating that we might have more than humans have ever had yet seem quite careless about it. That we might be ploughing through limited resources – enjoying them briefly then clearing the space for more, cluttering up the world with discarded choices – in this quest to define ourselves and keep up with an ever-changing game of personal or social meaning.

Sometimes it seems such a strange way to be looking at things and spending the incredible opportunity life affords us.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Places of belonging & acceptance
Note 1: Definition, expression & interpretation
Note 1: Attacks on our humanity
Note 2: “Paradox of Choice”
Note 2: Meaning in a world of novelty
Note 2: Goods & the wisdom in scarcity
Note 3: Values, and what’s in evidence
Note 3: Making ends meet
Note 3: Some thoughts about “life”

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Humans, tangled in these systems

In terms of how we live, isn’t it that we’re very much born into things? Much of what effectively shapes the course of our existence being, in many ways, determined by the social realities already existing around us. Almost as if we exist within this manmade reality of structures, policies and ideas affecting every area of our lives; our only freedom, perhaps, being how we respond.

Isn’t it true that society stands between us and the world? Mediating that relationship, telling us what to think and how to be, sheltering us from some things but burdening us with others. At this point, we presumably don’t know any different? How long’s it been since humans in the West have lived in direct relationship with nature? Increasingly, it seems like we’re living at ever-further distances from it. (Notes One)

Conceiving of “society” as a set of systems we’re born into, what’s that like? To arrive on the scene with all these naturally-endowed advantages or disadvantages almost completely beyond our control. To have our sense of self-worth, social acceptance or power determined, to quite a large extent, by how that world’s been saying to judge people like us. Doesn’t “all that” become the lived experiences of our lives?

It just seems interesting to imagine all the ways our lives are shaped by this being our reality – every moment, perhaps, being influenced by our appearance, the circumstances of our birth, or all the ways that’s been compounded over the years (Notes Two). Living within this human world of judgements, assumptions, and assigned estimations of worth seems a not insignificant reality we all have to contend with.

How much are we judging each other on those terms? Where do we get our ideas of what are acceptable or meaningful ways to judge people? Is “that” part of the system we live in too? The set of values by which we’re allowed – or, encouraged – to see and respond to those around us. The code that’s been bred into us around what’s valuable or otherwise within our community.

It’s fascinating to think that whatever the human “is” might be being poured into these situations the humans before them created, dreamt up or set in motion. The ideas once in their minds becoming the realities of our lives. The minds now filling them becoming the ones who, in turn, will uphold, improve or let fall away whatever systems they might have inherited. (Notes Three)

And, within it all, there are presumably many voices trying to tell us what “living this way” means for them, from a human perspective. Listening, we perhaps come to appreciate how well our “values” are working out in the real world. Seeing these systems through the eyes of those affected by them, our response may well be that something needs to give.

Isn’t it effectively down to us to change things? How else is anything to improve if the people living within modern systems don’t insist on their values being better brought to life.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Detaching from the world around us
Note 1: Treating people like sims?
Note 1: Having a sense for being alive
Note 1: True relationship within society?
Note 2: Complication of being human
Note 2: The struggle with being alive
Note 2: Absolute or relative value
Note 3: What it is to be human
Note 3: Society as an imposition?
Note 3: Losing the sense of meaning
Note 3: Questions around choice

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Making ends meet

When we talk of making ends meet, it’s often a statement related to individuals: how well we’re balancing desire with capacity and finding the financial resources to square away all the essential items that make up our lives. Beyond that, though, isn’t it also a description of society? A sense of how well personal and collective interests marry up into a workable whole.

Our personal lives clearly have a long list of requirements: shelter, warmth, food, clothing, transport, entertainment, technology, growth. All we need – or feel we do – in order to participate within society as worthwhile, respectable citizens. Don’t many of those things, and how we’re going about them, effectively become our identity, our sense of status or of self-worth? (Notes One)

At its most fundamental, it’s presumably a picture of everyone feeling healthy, cared for, and motivated to engage productively, constructively and responsibly in making things work. That, from this foundation of balanced preparedness – all our essential physical, emotional, psychological needs having been met – we’re in the position to participate in social realities with the secure, firm footing of personal independence.

I would’ve thought that’s what we’re looking for with society: people being able to stand on their own and respond to life from that place of calm self-assurance. But, these days, it really seems such security is difficult to find. Everything changing so quickly, the psychological – let alone financial or mental – demands placed on everyone to “keep up” are perhaps impossible to meet (Notes Two).

Progress is funny, then, in that we seem the one’s funding it through buying these things, yet the minimal standards required to keep up with it all must be a huge burden – all these new products to evaluate, learn about, and somehow find money for. Markets might have a lot of good things going for them, but sometimes it seems the quantifiable stress and waste it’s all generating could outweigh many supposed benefits.

It’s almost as if industry runs ahead – fuelled by the desire for profit, excitement of competition, or ingenuity of our finest minds – and we’re all chasing the tail of trying to catch up and be whatever a modern human’s supposed to be (Notes Three). Like this artificial conversation spun out above our heads, speeding ahead of anything the human mind can truly comprehend or piece together into a meaningful whole.

It’s interesting to consider the impact it’s all having. Because, industry has its “ends” – it’s targets and sense of where things are headed. This commercial vision of a better world that’s harnessing our power of invention to rework the idea of human life, society, and our position on this planet. Working on those levels, the scope this has for reshaping our lives is potentially limitless.

And, within it all, live the humans trying to tally up our hopes for life with the space this world has in mind for us. How well we’re currently balancing genuine human needs with these other, commercial ones can be a strange thing to contemplate.

Notes and References:

Note 1: How we feel about society
Note 1: Things with life have to be maintained
Note 1: Attacks on our humanity
Note 1: This thing called love
Note 2: What’s not essential
Note 2: Freedom, what to lean on & who to believe
Note 2: Goods & the wisdom in scarcity
Note 2: The insatiable desire for more
Note 2: Letting go of “who you are”
Note 3: Those who are leading us
Note 3: Do we really need incentives?
Note 3: Treating people like sims?
Note 3: Life’s never been simpler…

Thinking about how we got here, One thing leads to another mused over paths the West’s taken and where we now stand.

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Goods & the wisdom in scarcity

Sometimes I wonder if scarcity doesn’t contain its own form of wisdom, in how it effectively focuses in on what really matters. Whereas, with novelty and excess, it’s almost as if we lose that “line” between what we truly need and everything else that’s on offer.

Isn’t there a sense of indulgence to being in a position of “plenty” in that we’re free to make quite frivolous, unnecessary choices? Once essential needs have been met, aren’t we – almost by definition – in the world of excess? Living in that space, how are we to decide which non-essential items we want most? What sort of yardstick do we use for that?

Could it genuinely be true that less is more? That choosing what matters is better than chasing what doesn’t. Of course, seeing what matters isn’t always easy: we all have interests, desires, and expectations of what’s going to make us feel our life’s worthwhile, admirable or otherwise satisfying. What are we ever looking for in the things we seek to own? (Notes One)

Somehow, it also seems that the more we have the less we appreciate it. As if acquisition itself only makes us desire more. Do we become desensitised to the value of things, chasing instead the thrill of wanting, pursuing and attaining the next? Maybe, having many things, we’ve too little time to recognise their worth, or the stress of managing them starts outweighing any pleasure they give.

Strange maths is surely going on here? This balance of desire, attention, distraction, fear of loss, and the never-ending search for more, newer, better… How are we to judge what we truly need out of “all this” if, in all honesty, we don’t really “need” any of it? It seems an odd sort of basis for society, this unfettered pursuit of whatever our hearts desire (Notes Two). Aren’t we notoriously insecure and suggestible?

The calculations behind society may be fascinating to consider but impossible to unpick. To what extent is the West actually built on the pursuit of more? More knowledge, more understanding, more skilful realisation of laudable aims may be justifiable; but “more stuff” seems a pretty questionable foundation. What’s the social, psychological and environment cost to that? (Notes Three)

What if, with all our freedom and choice, we’re missing the point of where value lies? In a world of scarcity, we’d likely value our belongings quite highly – those resources and assets that serve us in building, maintaining and shoring up what truly matters in life. Moving out of that world, how do we re-establish a sense for what’s really needed? If we just follow our heart, where does it lead?

Perhaps what I’m asking there is: what guides us? Can we recreate wisdom in the world of plenty and somehow re-discover that “edge” where our choices are, again, necessary and constructive? Rather than chase whatever we’re after, could we engage with the freedom markets offer to act wisely for the good of society in all the ways that’s conceivable?

Notes and References:

Note 1: What’s not essential
Note 1: The insatiable desire for more
Note 1: Attacks on our humanity
Note 2: “Small is Beautiful”
Note 2: One thing leads to another
Note 2: Social starting points for modern ways
Note 2: Life’s never been simpler…
Note 3: Problems & the thought that created them
Note 3: Things with life have to be maintained
Note 3: At what cost, for humans & for nature

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Advantage people don’t want to concede

We’re all born into such different situations, all dealt our hand of fundamental realities we have to live with. Society’s structure then determining how things play out; pre-existing cultural ideas and prevailing attitudes shaping any chance of moving much beyond our starting points or limitations.

Idealistically, society would work to even that out: offsetting “fate” somehow to ensure all have an equal chance to thrive and progress despite any obstacles we’re facing. In reality, it doesn’t often seem to work that way. Maybe because people perceive “assistance” as being in someway “unfair”? Maybe life’s moving at such a pace it’s hard for anyone to keep up.

It’s also, perhaps, “natural” that people don’t want to concede an advantage. Individually or collectively, it’s arguably not in anyone’s best interest and seems an unlikely path to take. What’s the incentive? Only loss, I’d imagine: handing back a strong suit or changing the rules of a game they looked likely to win. How many people do that?

We’re probably all quite caught up in the status this world’s offering; enjoying things and counting on them continuing. Personal identity seems so tangled in culture’s symbols and the sense of self we’ve gained through our position in society (Notes One). In the West, particularly, we have such luxury in our freedoms, opportunities and excesses – effectively, we do as we please.

But how much of “that” is based on inequality? What amount of our way of life is founded on pushing others down, even within our own communities? Whether economically or culturally, advantage as much as disadvantage seem like relative concepts: we are prettier, more stylish, or better able to afford a certain lifestyle “than” others. Doesn’t status only exist by way of comparison?

In that sense, it just seems unlikely people have much incentive to improve things. We’ve developed this combative, competitive approach to life that pretty much depends on there being these pervasive divisions (Notes Two). It’s a system that leads, almost naturally, to questioning whether we’ve placed the “right” values at the core of modern community.

Maybe that’s the aim of “progressive” elements: to address such attitudes and provide means for redressing ongoing disadvantages. Asking that we stop and re-evaluate how things are working must be important at this point, as what if we’re ploughing on in ways that lead toward a dangerous building up of social resentment and disconnection? Unless we tear each other apart first with angry idealism. (Notes Three)

Still I just wonder if we can go far enough in eradicating the imbedded inequalities of birth or capitalism. Especially when we’ve built life around profiting from natural endowments and superficial enhancements. Isn’t our culture – our sense of meaning, worth and success – largely based on deconstructing appearances and placing ourselves slightly or dramatically ahead of others?

Is this a way of life that can actually “work” the world over, or does it have limits? Maybe we need new ideas, new ways of thinking about human worth and its value within society.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Culture as what we relate to
Note 1: People, roles, reading that rightly
Note 1: What it is to be human
Note 2: Those who are leading us
Note 2: Where do ideas of evolution leave us?
Note 2: Do we really need incentives?
Note 3: Thoughts of idealism and intolerance
Note 3: Complication of being human
Note 3: What’s not essential

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People, roles, reading that rightly

Can we separate people from their roles? In every area of life – workplace, community, relationships, society itself – aren’t we always playing some kind of role? We assume these parts, act consistently, and, doing so, make up the complex realities of all our lives. “Everything” is perhaps, at its core, an interwoven picture of all the roles we’re agreeing to take on.

Some we’re given at birth – looks, health, early life, socio-economic standing, basic demeanour are just some of the things effectively “handed to us” as we emerge into the world. Others we might adopt ourselves, because they seem to fit or we feel they’ll serve us somehow. Around every human there seem to be all these masks we’re wearing (Notes One).

And the drama of life perhaps just plays out on those terms? Different masks carry with them different degrees of power and status, affording their wearer the delightful advantage of how others then respond to their presence. Whether we’re talking about cultural ideas of beauty and style or the weight of socio-economic realities, there’s this sense in which we’re each assigned a place.

Is it possible to move beyond that, to see it for what it is? Isn’t it some form of illusion? Beneath it all, aren’t people simply people? Isn’t a lot of “this” simply inherited and undeserved? Isn’t “what we make of things” ultimately more telling?

The psychology’s fascinating – how is it we’re taught to feel about ourselves? Society has its history, all these stories and the qualities they supposedly portray, this strange pride or shame at paths each country has followed into the present day. We all carry such “baggage”. All this stereotyping, branding and spin we’re constantly dragging into the present and projecting onto the future (Notes Two).

Isn’t it all a picture of “what we value”? The narratives of economics and culture seem, in many ways, to be a conversation about values in either of those two realms (Notes Three). And certain roles or positions in life are seemingly more valued than others – placed up on a pedestal, deferred to, and given great power within society.

What on earth does it mean, though? Why do we assign meaning, value or worth and relate to one another this way? Maybe, as humans, we need some code or sense of meaning in order to understand reality and apply ourselves within it. But, is this the right one? Is this the best way to be looking at people, judging status and deciding how to act?

Society clearly assigns to some more prestigious roles than others (Notes Four). Those who labour, tend and nurture seem less valued for their work than those who direct, manage or set projects in motion. But aren’t those the roles that keep things going by sustaining environments, relationships and assets? Isn’t it possible we’ve underestimated the value of all we’re bringing to life?

Could we come to see the truth of who we are, what we’re doing, and what it all means differently?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Masks we all wear
Note 1: Letting go of “who you are”
Note 1: At what point are we just humans?
Note 2: Stories that bind us
Note 2: Personal archaeology
Note 2: Seeing, knowing and loving
Note 3: Language and values
Note 3: Mathematics of life
Note 3: Definition, expression & interpretation
Note 3: Economics & the realm of culture
Note 4: Those who are leading us
Note 4: The beauty in home economics

Beyond all this, there are then the perhaps more timeless questions explored in Absolute or relative value & Worthless, or priceless?

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Ethics, money & social creativity

It’s fascinating, and daunting, to think how all our actions are connected. Perhaps they always have been, just not to this extent or with this degree of relative openness and scrutiny. While the true breadth and intention behind the commercial realities dominating global interactions might be difficult to fully grasp, it’s at least becoming possible to attempt to fathom all we’re a part of.

Where community and the transactions making up our lives used to be much more local, immediate and small-scale, modern life’s pulled us into this vast, remote and largely invisible reworking of that. It’s perhaps more or less the same, except we don’t see the consequences or understand the roles people are playing unless we choose to (Notes One).

So much can be happening in life – even quite close to home – without our knowing. Technology has this wonderful way of making us feel overwhelmingly well-informed yet perpetually distracted, with attention spans shaved down to mere seconds. Knowing how to judge, what matters, and where to focus our time and energy may well be our most pressing challenge.

Because all our actions clearly feed in “somewhere” (Notes Two). All of our words and attitudes ripple out to impact or empower others, perhaps becoming part of patterns that really need addressing. Our consumer choices all take their place in trends that push profit in one direction while often inflicting personal, social or environmental suffering elsewhere.

All we’re doing, particularly when it comes to money, surely represents “power” in the real world? We can push ourselves forward or push others back, thinking it’s only natural we benefit from our advantage. It’s a difficult world in which to establish a sense of justice; especially when so much is set in motion from the moment of birth.

Grasping the truth of modern interactions seems so important – what does it all “mean”? What’s the “right” way to act in order to support that which we wish to support and not inadvertently take part in perpetuating situations we’re wanting to eradicate? Getting to the point of understanding these systems well enough to act ethically and creatively within them could be one of our most exciting opportunities.

Not to get caught up in well-worn conversations around capitalism, Marxism or the influence of, say, Protestant ethics on financial attitudes, it’s interesting to consider the power and responsibility we all have in this.

Knowing where we stand and what our choices will mean for others must be fairly essential: given the world is as it is, what are we creating by way of the decisions we’re making? Does the profit arising from letting out property truly outweigh the cost to others of never being able to have the same security? Does cheap, convenient food justify its impact on local agriculture or distant communities?

The responsibility of knowing what our choices actually entail is such a challenge; but using those choices intentionally to truly benefit the lives of others is a beautiful thought for how we might live.

Notes and References:

Note 1: What it is to be human
Note 1: Technology as a partial reality
Note 1: Does anything exist in isolation?
Note 1: Economy as a battleground
Note 1: Interdependency
Note 2: What we create by patterns of behaviour
Note 2: Overwhelm and resignation
Note 2: Any escape from cause & consequence?
Note 2: The power of understanding
Note 2: Life’s never been simpler…

In a similar vein, “Quest for a Moral Compass” raised some interesting questions around our individual and collective realities.

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What we create by patterns of behaviour

When we put together “all that we do” – all the annual seasons of nature, finance and culture, with all we arrange around them – it’s interesting to see how it all goes into making up our individual and collective lives. These daily habits of living that become our patterns of consumption, activity and conversation.

All of our choices effectively coming together into these vast, interwoven systems that now spread through, and far beyond, our local and national boundaries. It’s all so personal and so connected: every decision we actively or passively make rippling out and, somewhere, meeting the shore of another’s life. Perhaps that’s always been the case; but never quite like this (Notes One).

In so many ways, the personal feeds into the collective: habitual responses weaving together to form society, all its struggles and its strengths (Notes Two). Conceivably, every little thing “counts” and adds up to quite substantial differences within that reality. All the subtleties of our awareness, intention and attitude toward one another surely soften the edges of common life or serve to roughen them up?

However we look at it, our choices generally accumulate into discernible patterns on the larger scale. And it seems we’re frighteningly predictable – quickly making almost anything a habit, even if much of it’s slipped in beyond our conscious understanding. It’s like we’re forever seeking this formula for “how to live” through all the systems, rhythms and routines of our existence.

Life may well “be” our patterns of behaviour: the rhythms of the human lifespan, the activities we place within it, then the filtered-down reality of our everyday tasks. Weaving within them, the rhythm of our own personal character and attitude toward it all – toward others, the responsibility of our choices, and the power of influence we’re bringing to bear on the world around us.

As humans, then, we’re perhaps standing somewhere between the strong “pull” of habitual subconscious behaviour and the burdensome clarity of thought (Notes Three). If we were to live completely from our rational mind, life would surely become quite draining? Every decision actively requiring conscious attention might seriously hamper things. But operating out of unexamined habit doesn’t seem that much better.

What is the right balance? Because, given the nature of modern systems, the human, social and natural costs of our actions seem to be skyrocketing – everything’s so coordinated and fast-paced that damage can be done before we’re even aware. If we’re not alert to the dangers or realities of choices we’re making, might we not inadvertently contribute to problems we’d never knowingly take part in?

And many seem to be investing heavily in bypassing our conscious attention to guide those choices. With all the social and psychological research behind technology, whole swathes of human activity potentially become quite controllable. Some of that might “innocently” fall within the realm of manufacturing demand, but that’s not all that’s going on.

A little off track, my point’s really that – aware or not – all our choices inevitably add up to something.

Notes and References:

Note 1: The idea of think globally, act locally
Note 1: Having boundaries
Note 1: Social starting points for modern ways
Note 2: Reading into social realities?
Note 2: Society as an imposition?
Note 2: Right to look out for ourselves?
Note 3: Questions around choice
Note 3: Ways thought adds spin to life
Note 3: One thing leads to another

Alongside all this, “The Tipping Point” very much considers this question of individual power within collective realities.

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Attacks on our humanity

What exactly does it “mean” to be human? Individually as much as collectively, what do our lifetimes entail and create? What “makes” us who we are, and what’s the right way to be going about it all? Massive questions, clearly: we’re all unique, self-aware creatures charting our own individual paths through life, forging relationships and leaving countless impacts in our wakes.

It just seems that we are what we are – the human psyche poured into the world that’s surrounding us. And we “need” that relationship to sustain us emotionally, socially, intellectually, creatively, economically. Human communities must serve so many essential functions; at the core of which, hopefully, is the balanced and appreciative individual (Notes One).

How much is that now the case, though? And why is it so many “parts” of society now seem intent upon undermining, unsettling and criticising us all? It’s almost like we’re turning on ourselves, tearing each other down for commercial or psychological advantage. But maybe I’m wrong to characterise it that way. Maybe it’s all designed to help us be the best we can – by pointing out all our problems.

Modern society just seems this environment of critical hostility, judgement and pressure to conform – our “worth” closely aligned with our ability to keep up financially. It seems we’re all under such scrutiny now, every sign of weakness or imperfection being an opportunity to diminish our confidence, cast people aside or insist on yet another consumer need (Notes Two).

Does the marketplace “need” to undermine self-worth in order to function? Effectively, it must lead to a scenario where large chunks of social activity are directed toward picking away at us all in the name of manufacturing demand. What is it to live in a world that makes you feel bad about yourself so it can offer to make you feel better?

Have human societies ever been set up this way before? Undermining psychological, social and emotional security for commercial gain. Setting us against one another in a never-ending quest for the next essential, self-defining item. Chipping away at limited material resources in the pursuit of what, exactly? How much can a society place in the balance before the whole thing risks crumbling into a neurotic, self-induced heap?

We might hope that something’s there to protect us – that the law, the state, or some overarching moral code would prevent our lives and general peace of mind from being deconstructed that way – but it’s not seeming to be the case (Notes Three). In reality, it seems organisations or individuals are quite free to feed off our very natural uncertainties; perhaps, even, to encourage or fabricate them.

Making people feel incomplete and dependent might be a wonderful economic model, but where does it leave us in terms of individual psychology and social stability? It seems to be a picture of us against the world, of a community feeding off its members’ vulnerabilities and legitimate human needs then justifying it by having converted them to money. Why live that way?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Human nature and community life
Note 1: Economy & Humanity
Note 1: Plato & “The Republic”
Note 2: What it is to be human
Note 2: The insatiable desire for more
Note 2: What’s not essential
Note 3: What would life be if we could trust?
Note 3: Overwhelm and resignation
Note 3: Life’s never been simpler…

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What’s not essential

Of everything that’s happening in life, what really matters? Which things could be very easily left undone and the world as a whole would be none the worse off? Because it’s often seeming that much of human activity could fairly safely be categorised as non-essential; as these essentially frivolous, luxurious or self-indulgent impulses. But does it even matter if what we’re filling our days with isn’t essential?

That’s not meaning things like fun and enjoyment. Cultural and social engagement clearly fulfil many essential functions as well as being valuable in and of themselves: companionship, belonging, the chance to reflect on our lives and the life of society, relief from the pressures and duties of living and all the masks we have to wear on a daily basis.

My point though, I suppose, is about balance. How many of the things we engage with are done purposefully, with an eye to how they enrich our lives, rather than out of addiction, compulsion or release? How much of the non-essential in life is fundamentally some form of self-management to offset the tensions and discomfort of modern life and, perhaps, life itself?

This has clearly taken a turn down a dark alley. Perhaps it’s not easy to ask what’s essential in life. It’s a philosophical question that touches on our belief in society, meaning and the purpose of human existence (Notes One). Does it matter what we do, or should we just enjoy ourselves as much as we can while we’re here? Is there any broader responsibility than simply looking out for ourselves?

It just seems such attitudes, adopted collectively, lead to systems that risk cannibalising the entire planet in pursuit of either greed or distraction. Isn’t our relentless desire for non-essential, disposable items creating mountains of waste and pollution for no good reason? How much of the world’s material and human resources are swallowed up by this kind of activity? (Notes Two)

Beyond that, what does this lead in terms of society? Does all this encourage us to interact wisely and responsibly with those around us and the infrastructures we’re all to some extent depending on? Are we being brought together, inspired to understand one another better, inclined toward healthy and inclusive attitudes? Or is all this making us less human, less caring in our pursuit of self-advancement? (Notes Three)

It just seems that ideas of what’s truly “essential” are shifting remarkably fast. In the past – or, other parts of the world – essential needs might be things like food, peace, shelter, safety, freedom. In the West, minimal standards seem to be creeping up and up; blurring quite profitably with modern commerce. How much of that’s simply “creep”? One thing leading to another until all this begins to seem normal.

Essentials are presumably the basic foundation of life: being healthy, cared for, and ready to engage with the world around us. How exactly that snowballed into what’s now surrounding us is strange to consider; as is the sense of where it’s all headed.

Notes and References:

Note 1: What it is to be human
Note 1: Does anything exist in isolation?
Note 1: What we bring to life
Note 1: The philosopher stance
Note 2: Will novelty ever wear off?
Note 2: Detaching from the world around us
Note 2: Interdependency
Note 2: The insatiable desire for more
Note 3: Do we need meaning?
Note 3: Stories that bind us
Note 3: Reading into social realities?
Note 3: This thing called love

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