We are so busy living our lives; sometimes we forget what life’s all about. Many advertisers, in our consumer driven society, would have us believe our happiness is directly tied to what we own. Subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, we are told we can become happier by owning more.
Sometimes more means a greater quantity of things; sometimes more means bigger things. In the United States, there is often a fixation with abundance and size. Until recently, a bigger SUV was a sign of prosperity and happiness for many. Forget what the vehicle may have been doing to the environment. Forget that it might have guzzled gas. It was big. It was bold. Many of us wanted one.
Along came high priced gasoline. At $4.00 a gallon, a big gas consuming monster no longer seemed appropriate to many. It was more a burden than a blessing.
We had a taste for big homes, homes often bought with unaffordable mortgages. We all see where that has gotten us. Go back six years. How many folks were buying or aspiring to McMansions? This was true, even for families of four without giant incomes. Bigger was better we told ourselves. We deserved it.
The financial crisis came in 2008 and the buzzword became “downsizing.” Yet, how many of us still lust after bigger and bigger flat screen TVs. And we don’t just want them bigger, we want them “better.” First there was plasma vs. LCD. Now, folks want LED. Nothing but the best for us.
I don’t know how some of us suffer with 42 inch television screens. Oh, the indignity. Maybe, we can upgrade to 60 inches or more. I wish sarcasm were money; I’d be rich. Then I could buy a bigger monitor!
Of course, there are smart phones and smarter phones, tablets and book readers and goodness knows what else. We want bigger and better, or smaller and better and we must have newer. Ah, modernity.
Are we happier with all this? Does our rampant consumerism, in the face of daunting economic challenges, bring us joy? Nah, it doesn’t! However, while we individually and collectively seek ways to get back on our financial feet, we continue to lose the plot on personal happiness.
Our happiness is not tied to what we own. I will say it again. Our happiness is not tied to what we own. Yes, there is a need for some basic things. A clean safe place to live. Basic reliable transportation. A television. A computer. Health insurance in case we get sick. Good but not extravagant food. Good but not designer label clothing. Not a lot more really. Much of what we think we need are merely desires which have been hypnotized into us by clever marketers.
What makes us happy, truly happy, are our relationships with other people. The care and love we can share with our fellow human beings can bring us incalculable joy. Once the basics of life have been covered – meaning we are safe where we live, not starving and not sick – it is the relationships we have with other people that enrich us, not more things.
We suffer from stuff-itis. We fill our lives with stuff, perhaps, subconsciously trying to fill the hole in our souls left by not attending to what matters most, our relationships with other folks.
But here is the thing. We have been so caught up in rampant consumerism that we have forgotten what relationships are. To have a good relationship with someone, we must be able to relate to them. Relating to them means we take the time to share good, strong, caring and ongoing communication.
Unfortunately, for so many of us, communication now boils down to small snippets of text, 150 characters on mini-blogs or posts to social media sites. IMPORTANT NOTE: A meaningful relationship with another human being cannot be conducted by virtue of shallow, 10 word messages that lack in content and often have little, if any, context.
Relationships are built on relating to people. Relating to people takes time. Truly relating to people takes in depth communication. Love is not something that can be bought.
You can’t take a bath in a thimble. You can’t swim in your bathtub. And you can’t hope to really understand people, their needs and their dreams simply and superficially treading water in the “social web.”
Fast food, which replaced the family dinner table; buying more stuff, instead of investing in each other; and texting, tweeting and posting instead of long face to face dialog have left us a remarkably lonely society. We have more (even in these tough times – compared to earlier decades,) superficially stay in contact more, yet have less deep, interpersonal contact than ever before.
It is time we started relating in our relationships again. We can save our relationships and build new ones by making them relate-tionships. If we are ever to be truly happy, we must begin relating to each other again.
Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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