Can you feel it? A surge of dopamine just flooded your brain like a levy giving way to a 12 point tsunami. You didn’t finish reaching an orgasm, snort a line of cocaine, or clear your plate of a king-sized portion of chocolate cake; you just made a purchase, and it has your brain firing on all cylinders, lit up like a pinball machine. You feel good, real good. But like all perceived good things it doesn’t last, it tapers off, leaving you feeling duped now that you’re looking back on the recent past with unfamiliarity – as if you were in a disassociated state when your decision took its course. The promise of love, sex, escape, prestige, joy, happiness by means of a simple transaction all seemed too good to pass up, so you indulged.
Through the evolution of technology and the more recent explosion of the industrial revolution, we’ve managed to make our needs painless to acquire. At least this is true for those of us in the first world with modest financial means. We have access to clean-ish drinking water, foods free of toxic residue (…), affordable housing, etc. So for most of us, the struggle for essentials isn’t a part of our day to day experiences. This leaves us with more options of utilizing our time than we know what to do with. Now I know most of you are thinking to yourselves, “I never have enough time to do anything! After work, traffic, making dinner, there’s no time left!” Maybe that’s true for us during the week, but what about the weekends? What do you think you’re most likely to be doing? I bet I can narrow it down to one of two things: A.) Shopping out of necessity (grocery shopping falls into this category) or B.) Shopping for pleasure. Either way, our time is spent consuming that which we need or consuming that in which we want, and we’ve become really bad at distinguishing between the two.
Just about anything that we buy today can be rationalized as being something we need. We like to play out scenario’s in our heads, telling ourselves that we would love to NOT buy something, but we just can’t avoid it because we require it for X, Y, or Z. This is mostly due to the hectic lives that most of us lead. In doing so we are able to justify spending money more frivolously because we “deserve it” because we’ve worked so hard. In fact, this is exactly why in 1926 Henry Ford gave his employees Saturday’s and Sunday’s off from work. He wanted to make sure that his employees had the time to buy his cars. There’s nothing wrong with this in and of itself. The problem arises when we aren’t able to step away from this. When we are no longer in control of our actions and thinking our decisions through and instead are always “bouncing” off of our discontent with our lives, curing it through shopping, alcohol, greasy food, television, pornography or any of the other countless distractions we have at our disposal.
This is The Materialist Trap. The false belief that by spending money, we are able to make up for the time that was lost in earning it.
It seems almost as if it is all perfectly orchestrated to keep economic growth at the forefront of our priorities. We needn’t be persuaded too much anymore, shopping and overall consumption have become second nature to us. If shopping centers and/or internet access weren’t readily available to us 24/7, we most likely wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves, at least not initially because we are creatures of habit, we rely on consistency and predictability to keep us grounded. Have you ever taken a long vacation and found yourself ready for it to be over at some point? This is what I mean.
The takeaway from all of this is that you DO have a choice in how you spend your time, so really think about it. Ask yourself what makes you tick and fills you with that sense of purpose? Surely it’s not buying another pair of shoes, a new cell phone, or a bigger TV. Clear away all that’s happened to you recently and ask yourself with a clear conscience, “what fulfills me?”. Maybe you have always wanted to pursue a craft or some kind of hobby? Do that instead of wasting time and money on useless gadgets. Understand that you don’t have to go through this experience staying within the lines and playing out the role we’ve been told we need to. Take back your sovereignty and make the choices that get you where you want to go. Buy things when you need to, but understand WHY you buy them, be mindful. Our time is too precious to be spent on just consuming alone.
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