Stuff is not-life

I adopted anti-consumerism shortly after I began working, largely out of self-defense because I began to appreciate that paying money for a thing meant trading hours of my life for a thing. Was a $100 set of Star Trek dvds worth 2 days of my life? No. ($15 for a used set? ….well, ok.) So I started making myself let go of desires, and this was a couple of years before I ever began considering practical philosophy. It’s one of the reasons it attracted me, though, because it made me realize that there were other people out there who were thinking about things, and not just going with the flow. I wanted to find out what mattered. This was one of Henry David Thoreau’s intentions on moving to Walden:

“I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to is lowest terms.”

One of the best books I read on this during that time was Erich Fromm’s piece, “To Have or to Be?” which scrutinized the modern tendecy to define ourselves by what we possess rather than what we have: this is not something as simple as keeping up with the Joneses, but extends to those who attempt to capture moments rather than living them. It’s one thing to capture a special moment: it’s another to spend one’s life with an upheld smartphone, attempting to live through the likes of others rather than through one’s own eyes.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
This entry was posted in General and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Stuff is not-life

  1. This resonates with me. I’m about to move into the last third of life myself and start getting rid of stuff.

    • There’s a book called “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning”…it’s about the practice of pretending one’s death is imminent, and so reducing the burden that might be passed on to survivors by removing all that doesn’t add value to our lives on a daily basis.

      • So tempting! The thought of getting rid of 98% of my possessions is such a freeing thought, yet I’m not ready to do it.
        I think I’ll look out for the book, though.

  2. Cyberkitten says:

    One of the *many* consumerist conundrums I try to wrap my head around is the wrist watch. I’m generally a practical person so essentially what I demand from a watch (when I wear such things) is accurate time telling. That’s it. With modern crystal/battery watches they’re (generally) both very accurate and very cheap. So…. why buy a more expensive watch?

    *Years* ago I needed to change the battery in my watch & the cost (of the battery itself plus fitting) was roughly the cost of the watch itself. So I threw the old watch away and bought another one. Since then – unless it’s a really nice watch I like (or has sentimental value) – I buy a really cheap watch and, when the battery fails after 2, 3 or more years – the watch goes in the bin. Years back I wore a watch that was free in a box of breakfast cereal. It lasted about 8 months and was accurate enough. I did get some *very* funny looks – but like I cared….. [lol] I’ve never understood why you’d pay $1,000 for a watch when a $10 watch is just as good @ telling the time…. I’m not the kind of person who wears a watch just to tell everyone else that you’ll willing and able to drop that kind of money for no good reason. Personally I just see it as pure waste.

    • For expensive non-smart wristwatches, I imagine they think of it as jewelry, first and foremost, and they probably have different watches for different suits. That strikes me as insane, frankly, but then I know how many pairs of pants/shorts/t-shirts I own because I’m a minimalist who does a census and purges every year. Two very different mindsets!

      For smartwatches, I think it’s more of the ‘check out my cool gadget’ impulse. I get the gadget appeal, since I have a techie brain that is in eternal battle with my luddite/simple living brain. I realize they’re very functional, but spending that much money on a watch strikes me as silly. Conspicuous consumption on both fronts.

  3. I’ve always thought it odd that many people list “shopping” as a hobby. Shopping?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s