Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Deep thought and cheap trinkets
There's something weird about humans. For most of us it appears we'll happily give up our deepest philosophies for a few cheap thrills. A recent example of that is all the Eastern countries with long spiritual traditions now diving headlong into consumerism. They are only the most recent examples. The virtues of poverty and sacrifice don't get much traction these days in Christian countries.
Only the bounty of fossil fuels has allowed the average person to come under the sway of commercialism. In previous civilizations only a tiny elite could experience such vices. The rest of us poor slobs were too busy with the basics of survival. Having a stoic philosophy or the promise of a better afterlife helped people get through their days. Thanks to abundant cheap energy normal people have been able to acquire stuff -sometimes so much stuff it's a disease.
Science has shown that having stuff does make us happy, but only to the point where the basics are satisfied. Beyond that, more and more stuff is less and less satisfying. It's a trap. The modern world provided us with the ability to satisfy our basic needs. The pursuit of material things paid off, at first. No wonder so many of us gave up on everything else. However, once we have enough, material things cannot make us any happier. Then it's good to have something to nurture the soul: philosophy, spirituality, or even a religion. Whatever works.
Of course, lately the pursuit of cheap trinkets hasn't been working out as well as it used to. Wages are down and cheap material things aren't so cheap anymore. Those who strive for material happiness are going to be in for some major disappointment.
At least philosophy is a sustainable activity.