Saturday, April 4, 2015

Thoughts on things

It's one of those Buddhist / New Age truisms that "things" don't make you happy. We love the idea of acquiring things, but once we have them, we're discontented. Up to a point, I agree. I've been much happier since downsizing my possessions to the point that, with the exception of the furniture I was recently given, I can fit everything I own into a reasonable size car.

However, I don't agree that, per se, possessions don't make us happy. For example:
  • My car makes me happy, every time I drive it. Even driving to work in shitty traffic. It's fun, and cruising round with the top down in this weather is an absolute blast. 
  • My vaporizer and collection of essential oils makes me happy, every time I fill my room with sweet aromas. 
  • My bluetooth speakers make me happy, every time I play music off my phone, tablet, or laptop, without worrying about wires, or having to plug things in when I go from room to room. 
  • My musical instruments and recording equipment bring me intense joy.
  • Every piece of art I own has a story to it, and when I look at them, I smile and remember. 
  • My slow cooker and chef's knives make me happy. Cooking is a real pleasure anyway, and having nice kitchen equipment makes it better.

And, apart from my clothes, a few dozen books, and the aforementioned furniture, that's pretty much all I own these days. Undeniably, since buying those things, I have been happier. Sure, that's not the only reason I'm happier, but those things have played a big part in making my life more enjoyable.

It's not that things don't make us happy. They can, and they do. Rather, when we have more than we need, individual things lose their importance, and when we focus on acquisition rather than enjoying what we already have, that's when we become discontented unless we have a continuing stream of new "things".

Perhaps surprisingly, my attitude is best expressed, not by a Buddhist or a pagan, but by Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first Muslim, a cousin of Muhammad, and the man to whom Muhammad dictated the Quran.

No comments: