July 15, 2009

Stuff, Stuff, Stuff: How can we talk about it?

When it comes to material consumption I tend to look to Tyler Durden’s maxim, “The stuff you own ends up owning you.” We are an over “stuffed” society, from food and drink, to technological conveniences, to mental distractions. But try and suggest this to someone who holds to the notion that one must better society by bettering oneself and the only obvious way to do this is, own more and want more, and the results may be disastrous.

My wife and I have approached friends before with our struggles and shortcomings when we are trying to live with less. The response many times has been a defensive reaction of, “you must be out of your f*&$ing mind. Who would do such a thing?” The Buddha took a middle of the road approach, don’t completely deny physical needs but do not indulge individual thirsts. Yet the Buddha’s mid-way approach was nowhere near the over-consumption that comes from a standpoint of ‘all things in moderation.’ I am not intending to sound like a fanatic, we cannot nor should we all cease consuming tomorrow or the next day outright, this would debilitate our economy and eradicate many more jobs, but we are far to lackadaisical in how we fuel our cravings for material comfort.

Economists are calling upon the masses to begin consuming again, to pull ourselves out of turmoil by buying our prosperity back. I would suggest we have a perfect opportunity now to remake our prosperity. To create a radical shift in how we view personal well-being, not as dependent on material possession but independent of any material artifice.

Finally, this blog was written as a way to promote Annie Leonard’s online video, The Story of Stuff. After writing it I discovered Sarah Miller of Elephant Journal had already posted on this remarkable piece, therefore, I am linking to her article. Please go check it out and then link to The Story of Stuff.

A New York Times article by Leslie Kaufman says:

“The video was created by Annie Leonard, a former Greenpeace employee and an independent lecturer who paints a picture of how American habits result in forests being felled, mountaintops being destroyed, water being polluted and people and animals being poisoned. Ms. Leonard, who describes herself as an “unapologetic activist,” is also critical of corporations and the federal government, which she says spends too much on the military.”

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