The Materialistic World (2015)
Chapter 5: Non-Material Forms of Entertainment
This chapter aims to elaborate on the best strategy you can use to get started taking part in non-material forms of entertainment. The things enumerated here may not be considered a complete list of things you can do to entertain yourself in a non-material fashion. These are the top ways in which many people have proven to be effective and quite easy to put in action. You can start doing many of these activities right now.
Nature and Meditation
Nature has a way of transforming an individual, and it’s among the most reliable sources of peace and happiness. As you wait for the sun to set, you get this wonderful feeling of accomplishment knowing that another day has passed by and you spent it reveling in life and the blessings you have received. These are not necessarily material blessings, but may instead be the gift of time, energy, good health, and great relationships.
Many people meditate regularly, not merely because they are big fans of Kung Fu movies, but because they are after a greater awareness of what’s actually important. Nature can help you see that many things you are after in this life may not be helpful to your long-term growth and improvement as an individual and as a member of the society. Very few realize the truth that material things take much more than what they give. You may have a lot of material possessions, but what about the other aspects of your life?
What about your performance as an employee, business owner, student, parent, and friend? Life isn’t just about amassing what you think you need to be happy or about getting what you really want. It’s about discovering the frailty of the material and the beauty of the abstract. Simply put, do not focus too much on getting the latest gadget or having a well-stocked and up-to-date wardrobe. Take a look at nature. It’s so simple, yet it can easily take one’s breath away. The best things in life do not come from the mall or from the delivery guy—they come from what naturally surrounds you.
Spend time with Your Family and Friends
Spending time with your family will help fill the gaps in your soul, gaps which you once tried to fill through excessive shopping or a troubling degree of materialism. Your family is, and should be, the primary source of your happiness, because that’s what they are there for. The time you spend with your loved ones will surely bring about lasting joy, and later on in your life, you won’t regret a single minute or second that you spent with your parents, children, and other relatives.
It's likely that no one has ever said on their deathbed that they should have shopped more and gained more riches. When you spend time with your family, it’s like you are giving them a well-wrapped gift, which they can never get from anyone else. This present is so unique because it is your time. No one can turn back time; and if you have read Mitch Albom’s The Time Keeper, you will see that the best moments in life are the ones spent with those you love, not in any bazaar or mall.
Have a serious or fun conversation with your parents, ask your kid what he’s been up to lately, or play a board game with other relatives. It’s these moments in life that can never be bought by money. These times are priceless and precious. Unfortunately, they do not come as often nowadays because of the fast-paced and materialistic lifestyle many people have adopted. You can change your ways, and can certainly be a better member of your family. You can still buy things in moderation, but make sure that the time you are spending with your family is not compromised.
Read a Book
Reading a book is also a good way to entertain yourself. Many people fail to see the limitless creative and interesting ideas books bring to their readers. Readers become equipped with the necessary knowledge, insight, and versatility to go on with each day and be happy no matter what they have in their hands. Do not belittle the power of reading; most of the greatest minds in recent centuries, and even in this generation, got to where they are through a book.
Books may be material possessions—unless you just borrowed them—but the point here is that they can be used to keep your mind occupied and to keep the creative juices in your head flowing. You will have so much fun flipping through the pages of a good paperback if you just allow yourself to get into the experience. You do not have to spend money on a ton of things just to remain mentally active. If you want mental exercise, and a very fun way to spend a couple of hours each day, grab a good book and read.
Explore Other New Places
The world is one big hodge-podge of different places, cultures, and people. Instead of filling your house, hands, and wardrobe with things that you will eventually give or throw away, just spend your hard-earned money to learn more about the world you are in. Many things can surprise you and you will certainly think that you have spent your money well. Learning about different regions and meeting new friends in your journey will greatly increase the uniqueness of your identity.
You will become more confident as you try and learn how to adjust in different countries or states. You won’t need a new high-fashion purse, clothing, or any other material things just to show others that you are great. Your perspective of the world changes and grows. Do not hesitate to explore what’s beyond your own back- or front-yard. The world is for you to see because it is your home. Get to know it more and you will definitely be far from becoming materialistic.
Get to Know Your Neighbors
It’s somehow silly to think that some individuals do not know many people in their own neighborhood. They have been too busy buying things and strolling around shopping centers or bazaars that they are unable to meet potential friends. As many would say, “No man is an island.” Even if you have every single material object you have ever wanted, if you do not have any friends to share them with, life would be quite empty.
Every single day is an opportunity to meet new friends and be more connected in the community you are in. There will be a time when you will need the aid or support of your neighbors, so try spending some time to get to know them and have some engaging conversations. Do not let them think that you are simply not sociable or friendly. They may think you are just too concerned about getting more things into your home, but you have the chance to show them that you care about them as well.
The more friends you have, the more you will be spending time with them. This means you will have less time running around in the mall every week or every day just to get the latest clothing, appliances, and many other “things”. Since you have more people in your life who can help you see life in a better light, you won’t think too much about getting that new cellphone or that new jeans you saw the other day. Once you are connected to people, you will consequently be disconnected with materialistic things.
The ceaseless accumulation of objects is neither economically nor socially viable because most of the items purchased are never used. Hoarding in such a manner costs a lot as people are determined to buy things which are in fashion so newer and newer models keep emerging to entrap people in this vicious cycle of impulse buying. Advertising makes individuals believe that possessing objects is a symbol of status and if they do not have the latest model of a cell phone, a car or some other gadget they will probably fall down the social ladder. Accumulation of items is then equated to one’s position in the society. Not surprisingly, objects are used to inspire awe in others and to further one’s way into different elitist social circles.
These items also become a tool for entry into exclusive cliques as the only way people will allow someone to enter is if they possess all the expensive paraphernalia. Exclusivity and the need to maintain a distinction is perhaps the greatest motivation for materialists. Their clothes and belongings give them a distinctive air of grandeur; it makes them feel better about their self-image since these items represent their power and status.
As a result, a materialist can easily gain access into an elite group and interact with others who have similar interests. Materialists would rarely stoop below their illusionary stature to interact with those who do not share similar interests. Therefore, interaction happens with those who possess similar assets, for example people living in a certain highbrow, expensive residential area might only interact amongst each other. Such materialistic individuals interact with those who are ‘lower’ than their social status in order to extract patronage and appreciation. Praise is almost fundamental in perpetuating materialism since it provides a legitimacy to people’s actions and they end up thinking excessive buying and amassing of things is the right approach to build up one’s social standing.
Socially materialism is a malady for it is the reason behind such severe boundaries of class and status. It effectively puts people into these compartments of poverty and wealth and society judges their character and worth through the things they own. As a result the people who are at the bottom of the social ladder are consistently oppressed and trapped into this net of poverty because wealth is solidified at the top tiers and it never trickles down to benefit anyone else in the society. Social responsibility and morality are completed undermined by such a behavior. As impulse buying becomes an addiction, people develop a sense of indifference towards the suffering of others. Such heightened social aloofness results in crime and dissatisfaction at every level of the society.
The harsh reality is that wealth is being created only through oppression and exploitation of weaker groups in the society. Low wages, unsafe working conditions and long working days lead to the creation of wealth for the upper classes. Socially responsible individuals would realize how capitalists exploit the poor to benefit the rich, but materialists are so engrossed in their own world of bags and clothes that they cannot comprehend the millions of lives put at risk.
Materialism allows capitalism to pervade every strata of the society. The creation of wealth is unfair because it pitches the 99% against the 1% who own enormous amounts of assets around the world.
Such an arrangement is neither ethically nor democratically fair because the 1% of the globe is effectively usurping the rights of the 99%. It is true that today we have more assets and we consume more than we did 50 years ago, but it is also true that crime, disease, depression, hunger and poverty has increased exponentially. Materialism is economically inefficient because the scarce resources of this world are being used to create things which people do not even use. For running of large industries every day we are using up our natural resources and depleting them only to feed the never ending gluttony of the hedonists.
The global reserves of fossil fuels, clean water and even clean air are being rapidly consumed to feed industrial giants. This makes one wonder if everyone learns to control their wants and to desire what they need then most of the global problems would not have existed. Even politically groups contend to possess more resources and wars are waged for precisely continuing the production process in developed economies.
In consequence it is not surprising why people are still not happy and content perhaps this is because real contentment cannot be derived through objects.
As mentioned earlier one of the most alarming result of materialism is the widespread dissatisfaction it generates.
Materialism closely mimics the trends and fads currently propagated by mass media, therefore, in reality there is no limit to what people can buy and possess during their lifetime but they are constrained by their budget, physical abilities, age or even regional location and this creates an inherent sense of frustration and discontentment. The problem persists because the starting point of an overly great reliance on objects was flawed.
Materialistic people fail to realize that things are merely transient and transitory and that they will not last forever. Therefore, basing one’s life, energies and aspirations on such a shaky foundation seems asinine. Such people also find it exceedingly hard to deal with the loss of their belongings, for instance, during a natural calamity or economic downturn. People cannot handle issues like bankruptcy, political downfalls or any other loss in their social stature and more often than not they end up mentally ill.
Materialism actually incapacitates people and makes them weaker because they rely on their assets to act as a bulwark against everything. They are not mentally or physically equipped to deal with anything other than luxury. People who build up their self-image on the foundation of objects are committing a grave mistake.
Another interesting aspect of materialism is its synonymy with happiness which is an extremely flawed perception. It is true that the fulfillment of desires makes people happy but this happiness is short lived because the completion of one desire means the creation of another. Such a system traps people into this cycle where they expend their energies in acquiring more things every day. These individuals can never be happy with their present state because there is always some new object in the market which they don’t have.
This is physically and mentally tiring for them because they search for the elusive happiness in items which will get worn off or broken with the passage of time. Happiness remains unattainable because no one actually pauses to reflect on what they have and there is no gratitude for all the blessings of wealth and health they possess. Instead these blessings are considered to be their legal right and they can never appreciate the importance of what they have. Similarly looking at others who have more than them also decreases their happiness because they feel a sense of material deprivation.
Materialism is a race in which no one will ever win. The richest person of the world may have nothing more to his or her credit than the amount of money they possess. The scale through which people assess each other is derogatory because it downplays the importance of human character. The goodness of one’s self is not important compared to hundreds of items lying in a closet. Ideas like social justice, equality and empathy dwindle in the face of the love for material objects.
Undoubtedly, a society is not held by the amount of cars and cellphones its individuals possess but by the strength and substance of its norms and value. Materialism is therefore, creating a generation of highly indifferent, self-interested and immoral individuals who will be ready to do anything for wealth.
Youngsters are afflicted by this phenomenon where gathering objects is more important than improving one’s life and reflecting on the world.
It is extremely saddening that today’s generation is devoid of experiencing finer emotions of connecting with the universe, nature and humanity as a whole. Even if they do something good they continuously feel the need to garner praise for it and to preserve it in form of photographs. Materializing everything is their primary aim in life and experiencing sentiments and appreciating the vagaries of this universe is inconsequential. For them life would not hold any meaning as they are searching for it in the wrong place. Most individuals of today’s young generation are sadly bereft of the capacity of self-awareness and self-actualization.
In essence materialism is a social, economic and psychological problem which is destroying our reality and rotting our morality. The race to acquire more items must stop because it is a never ending, exhaustive process which will sap us of all higher sentiments. The solution would be to concentrate on things other than objects and to explore different avenues of life like reading, spending time in nature, doing selfless act and so on.
Empathy for others will also help in making people realize that so many objects are not essential to lead a happy life because there are millions of people around the world living with much less. Meditation and reconnection with our spiritual needs will also help bridge this gap of satisfaction.
In conclusion, in order to rid our society of materialism, there is a need for positive role models and a complete paradigm shift. Understanding the problem of materialism and being aware of its serious psychological and social repercussions will make people more responsible in their decision-making. Our choices as individuals or groups should be motivated by ethical and moral rules rather than an impulsive desire to multiply our wealth. The purpose of this book was to demonstrate the negative ramifications of engaging in the self-centered pursuit of materialism, which can ultimately numb one’s senses towards ideas like empathy and altruism. It successfully proves that materialism is not sustainable as a lifestyle because we are social beings who are driven by motives that might go against our personal desire for material assets.
The cornerstone of judicious and prudent living is to focus on the immaterial and realize the deeper nuances of the choices we make and their consequences on our lives and lives of those around us. Every time you are driven to possess something, pause and reflect on the number of beneficiaries of that decision, think about the alternative uses of your money and carefully consider the consequences of your decision; taking a comprehensive approach for reassessing your wants and needs will steer you towards healthy living.