I found inspiration for today’s post on the toilet of one of my favourite bars. There on the wall was scribbled a little quote by an unknown author that (translated) goes something like this: “Nowadays no one’s got enough of anything, because everyone’s got too much of everything.”
Toilets in clubs or bars sometimes hide great philosophical thoughts. For example you learn who’s a bitch, who loves whom, who’s got a big ass or you can even collect several phone numbers (as if you wanted them). Apart from these drunken messages you occasionally come across something that gets you thinking.
This got me thinking. Whoever wrote it must have been pretty fed up with materialistic life and greed dominating the world today. It is true that people on this planet have never been richer. Or poorer. At the same time. Rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer. This is not sustainable.
Good old Marx suggested everyone should have only as much as one can use. When you’re spending money on things that are beyond your real needs – it is an indicator you probably have too much. That’s called being well off – being able to afford things only for pleasure, because you like them, not because you need them. There’s nothing wrong with that. If it makes you happy and you have the resources to get it – be my guest! Marx’s thought is great in theory but in real life and especially in the 21st century who would be willing to live such life?
If you are a Harry Potter fan surely you remember the mirror of Erised (‘desire’ spelled on backwards btw) from the first book/movie. You may also remember what Dumbledore said to Harry about the mirror: “The happiest person would see nothing there, but his reflection.”
If the mirror was real, would there be such a person? And is there even something like happiness, or a complete satisfaction?
There are those who believe happiness is a destination and those who perceive it rather as a journey. I think the latter is more likely to acquire. In other words: happiness chosen as a way of life. I prefer to call this ‘happiness as a journey’ thing a relative satisfaction (with the way one lives his life). In my opinion, there is no such thing as 100% satisfaction or happiness because humans are fundamentally greedy beings, and greed (desire) usually leads to unhappiness.
Why are we greedy?
We humans are special. Unlike other earthlings on this planet, we are “sapiens”, rational, thinking, and intelligent like no other animal. Our intelligence is our advantage – we are capable of doing the most wonderful things. In contrast though, it is our intelligence that’s behind all the evil: wars, cruelty, torture, discrimination, violence… Looking back on history, there was one particular feature of everything horrible that happened: it was caused by greed. A fierce desire. Either it was money, power, religion or territory, in every case there was someone who wanted more. People always want more, no matter how much they already have. This applies to everybody. (Of course there are exceptions, let’s say Buddhist monks, who entirely live in accordance with their religion and live literally out of nothing.)
What got me thinking about this is the usual cliche people say (I am no exception, I keep telling this to myself all the time) when they see someone worse off then them: “Seeing this reminds me of how happy I am and how much I should appreciate things that I have.” It really should remind you of it, and you should keep reminding this to yourself over and over again to be happy – so it seems. But does it really work? No it doesn’t. Even if you hanged above your bed hundreds of pictures of miserable people, poor people, suffering people, it would never make you appreciate what you have because you always want more.
It’s not that we shouldn’t have desires, goals or dreams but they shouldn’t affect our current lives. To want something badly should never define our lives in a way we cannot be happy unless we acquire this dream. We cannot build our happiness on material things. If we do, we only end up unhappy because all things eventually break, go bad or get old. Nowadays it seems like too many people try to find happiness through money and things.
Why it is an alarming issue and why do I think it will destroy us one day? We live in a world of plenty. These are the times of mass production, unimaginable luxury, wealth, power and greed. These are the times when the greatest wealth is contrasted with the greatest poverty. I think the current situation is not sustainable. One day we will have to find a way to stop hunting for more. To stop and live. To achieve at least a certain level of satisfaction.