The Void of Materialism
Presumably, material culture is deeply rooted in the state of ungratefulness of the now. While materialism is not all bad, it is necessary to question the significance of items to the materialist. To be clear, a materialist finds the pursuit of material possessions (i.e., money, clothing, cars, furniture) of satisfactory and of self-fulfilling value. With the value of materials at the core of a materialist, the graceful notion of being thankful is nearly absent.
The regular consumption of material items is reflective of one’s values. This monologue is not an attempt to vilify consumers; it is more of an effort to bring to question their values and the importance of the material to them. Why is it essential to have an overflow of material items? Where did the desire to have content even come from, and what does it mean for the individual?
Okay, so what! We like our iPhones and Apple Watches, and our two-story homes! Sue us. We want to live a comfortable life. This is understandable and seems harmless until we look at the numbers of our lifestyle in America.
“the number of shopping malls outnumber that of high schools…”
Putting material items into perspective, according to Becoming Minimalist, the number of shopping malls outnumber that of high schools, and the LA Times tells us that there are 300,000 items in our houses.
That is more than a comfortable life. That is life in excess and bondage. Research has provided us with answers to the pivoting relationship between materialism and unhappiness. It has shown to us that excessive material clouds our life, and depletes us of clarity and ultimately happiness. The relentless pursuit of material is a bottomless pit on the road to happiness.
Psychology Today tells us highly materialistic people experience more anxiety, depression, and physical diseases. Yes, but why? Perhaps it is the pursuit of tangible items that deserts the essential things in life like fulfilling virtues, being enamored with love, and human connection. Most materialism is used to impress unimportant people or to fill a void that’s forced to go incognito over the collection of materials. Be not mistaken though, that void is just invisible to the eye, for it’ll still be rotting away at us. It may be at this point we see why the relentless pursuit of material items is unhealthy physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.
As social humans, love is essential for us just as a connection to others is. Material is just that, material. Tangible, disposable and non-fulfilling things that cannot love us, or consciously connect with us. Acquiring happiness through the means of tangible items is a mere illusion. Especially because happiness is a state of being and not a quantitative measurement.
One of the strategies’ in America is based on material acquirement. Nearly everything is for sale, commercials attempt to sell happiness through items, and even worse, companies have been targeting children for quite some time now.
Materialism in children. Do you not think it’s possible or maybe you would assume it’s harmless? Well, let’s magnify the concept by looking at way’s children acquire material and what they associate materials with.
Parents can also fuel materialism in children not only by being an example, but by using materials as a system of rewarding, or rescinding material as a form of punishment. The advertising power brands hold is immense. One study by Psychology & Marketing concluded that children aged three to five were able to recognize brands! Children are learning the culture of materialism before they can read or write. Again, I say, immense power these companies have, priming our children to be material consumers from birth throughout the duration of their lives. Let us not forget the public display of material greed that we find on YouTube of children showing off their endless amounts of possessions.
A justifiable argument may be that kids are just kids. Well, this argument won’t take the cake after a study by the Journal of Positive Psychology found that materialism is concerning because as the desire for material possessions escalates, intrinsic motivation and school grades are decreasing. No argument there, it is clear, Materialism at any age can distract us from true values.
What now? Well, a University of Illinois at Chicago study has affirmed that cultivating gratitude lessens materialism and increases personal happiness. In their study, half of the group were instructed to incorporate the use of journals to record what they were thankful for every day and the result of this routine showed the group to be filled with more gratitude while their desire for material decreased. One of the researchers on the study, Lan Nguyen Chaplin affirmed that decreasing materialism in young consumers was made possible by recognizing the things they were grateful for.
Gratitude, the graceful notion of being thankful for the present, was the catalyst for reducing materialism and the deleterious effects of it. Would it also be safe to say that the absence of gratitude to start with fuels materialism and the presence of it dilutes it? I would presume it to be so.