A Wealth of Nations: The Cult of Materialism in Our Society

Why is it that our society is so wrapped up in this materialistic way of life? From birth to death our achievements in life are measured on how much money we can pass on to our loved ones, how nice hour houses are, the luxury of our vehicles, or how many toys we can buy our children. We collect objects with no personal meaning so we can show them to other people who also gain no meaning from them. Why?  Is it for the shallow feeling of joy from seeing others notice our possessions?  Does a nice car make someone like us more?  Do the interiors of our houses reflect the interiors of the self?  Do our children gain true happiness from showing off their toys and gifts to other children? What does it all boil down to?

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Goddammit…

There is no easy answer.  Now, that may sound like a cop-out, but it really is true.  A long held tradition throughout history is that physical possessions reflect greatness of the individual. It is just a simple fact of our existence, and there will always be those who judge and rank a life based on the material wealth it possesses. With all our capacity for love, happiness, and desire I would like to think that solace can be found in one another – on the inner rather than the outer.  Instead of people being a means to material end, it should be the other way around.  Not simple gratification from a one-off encounter with another person, but gaining knowledge or experience from that encounter- making it.  Viewing the spirit as the garden to be tended rather than our bank accounts should be our ideal- minimalistic versus materialistic. Here’s a quote from the existentialist cult movie Fight Club to chew on:

                   “I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the  middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact.”

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Also, this.

Recently, while I was participating in a discussion on The Book of Job (in one of my favorite classes, I may add) I considered the implications of Job’s turmoil.  Only after removing all of his wealth, all of his herds, his crops, and  his house was he finally able to glean some enlightenment from his inner self.  Removing the religious implications and context of the piece, it can be seen as a tale of one man realizing the value of the things he had previously taken for granted and understanding the futility of those pursuits. He did not die when his estate was taken from him.  He did not wither into nothingness.  Rather, he withdrew within himself and understood that the will to progress is entirely internal. External possessions do not create happiness.  Physical ties to the world do not beget enlightenment.  Powerful, moving literature expresses these ideas, even when the popular culture of the day mandates otherwise.

Seems legit.

Speaking of popular culture, this materialistic dogma is so integral to our culture in America that we pay people millions of dollars to watch them throw it all away.  The Kardashians, Jersey Shore, My Sweet 16 (is that still a thing?), popular media advertisements (ex. Beer commercials, Cash 4 Gold, ) are all relevant examples of how we crave this desire for the physically tangible- the worship of the material. And people look up these “celebrities”!  So many people think “If only I could get on television, if only I could get famous, then I’d be happy”.  As if love- not strictly romantic love- is based in wealth. As if love can be found in these misplaced desires, these shallow connections to objects or objectified people.

Ultimately, it is up to us to toss off the shackles and the muzzle that the media has placed on is. Tune ourselves in to the way we’re being programmed into buying our happiness.  Most of the media is so unreliable that we simply cannot depend on them to change their ways.  Their existence is solely based on profit now.  Simply complaining and lamenting the denigration of intellectual and spiritual wealth is useless. Only through your words and actions combined can your progress and influence others to do so.  Whether it is through music, writing, activist work, teaching, volunteering, or spiritual counseling you can make your mark in this world.

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No, but really.

P.S. As an afterthought, I decided to go and look up some supporting essays and articles with the same theme.  I think that this is something that I can really get into.  I think I rather like this philosophy meets literature meets popular culture method of analyzing my world.

I just discovered this website, and I already have a feeling that I’m going to love it!  From what I’ve gathered from this article, it expresses a lot of ideas that I haven’t quite formed on my own yet.  It’s a great reference, so check it out!

http://www.evolutionary-metaphysics.net/modern_materialism.html

Here’s another interesting article.  It goes into a more metaphorical than blatant depiction of the materialism perpetuated by mass media.  The site seems pretty neat as well.

Modern perception’s limitations: The curtain of materialist society’s illusion

http://www.culturechange.org/e-letter-39.html

A Hobbit’s Wise Advice

Frodo:  “I can’t do this, Sam.”

Sam:   “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.  But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

Frodo: “What are we holding onto, Sam?”

Sam: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

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Please ignore the chronic Gay-face

I don’t think that much more needs to be said; the quote is pretty straightforward.  However, I’d like to expand upon this thought. I think that this thing that we have to hold on to, this idea worth fighting for should not simply come from an outside source.  Above all, what we need to hold on to is ourselves.  No, not literally. This idea that the only things worth having are those that we find in the outside world is ingrained in us from the get-go. From birth we’re conditioned to desire monetary gain and rewards those who Never mind acquiring wealth, friends, “love” – all the forms of perceived success- what is most essential to progress is the embracing of the self. From that stems the ability to find joys in the outside world.

For if you cannot take care of yourself, how can you expect to treat those you care about with full force.  If you don’t have a grasp on 100% of yourself, then how can you expect that of others?  It seems pretty obvious when I say or think it, but the application of this concept is the tricky part.  It’s easy.  It’s easy to focus on the negative, to find flaws where others find treasure.  It’s easier to hide yourself than to risk rejection.  Because, as painful as it is to wallow in your self-loathing and to berate yourself, it is still less painful than what might happen if you love yourself and put yourself out there.  Frankly, it’s downright terrifying.

tumblr_m7bhp9ztTV1qk3ggqFrodo realizes that he has always had something to hold onto: his self. He saw what he could become as a person (or, hobbit) and took the plunge.  I don’t see how it could have been any other way.  That is one of the reasons why Tolkein’s books are so popular, so loved throughout the years.  Underneath all of the epic landscapes, all the devastating battles, and extensively detailed lore (he created an entirely new culture for Dwarves, Elves, and wizards) lies the coming-of-age tale of Frodo Baggins.  It’s simple, yes, but the pure brilliance in the way this story is belayed is why it so enraptures us. All of this, due to the concept of self-acceptance. Pretty awesome stuff.

Although, not quite as awesome as this guy...

Although, not quite as awesome as this guy…

Repression of Human Longing

Heart pumping- warm, rich blood flows through my body. All my veins, all my muscles – aching, straining to move. My brain is frozen- encased in a layer of the most impermeable ice. All my energy is focused on the simplest of functions. Even so, I cannot breathe.  It’s as if  you reach into me -squeezing my lungs – to snatch the air within. Chest heaving, pulsating – my ribs are fit to burst. My whole body  rebels against me, yet only I bear witness.

I cannot even begin to fathom from where these thoughts spring, but somehow  these desires have quietly, yet fervently, burned into my soul all this time. Unstoked, they merely festered- like an old wound that cannot quite heal up. Oh, the many scenarios I have planned out in my head, the waking dreams that dance around the outskirts of my mind – I cannot express the sheer might of these images.  Ever the skeptic, I find myself repulsed at this weakness – this sickening, debilitating longing that unwillingly inhabits my thoughts.

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Psshh

Years of sexual and emotional repression has finally taken its toll, I suppose. Never willing to admit I had feelings or desires, I at first grew quite dissatisfied with my changing, growing body.  Now that I finally recognize myself for the power I hold, I find myself unable to express it in any fashion. Despite the wide range and scope of emotions and sensations that we humans are capable of experiencing, it feels like they have more control over us than we think.

Someone is right outside of our consciousness, just waiting to make us feel the most inconvenient things.  We so often end up getting attached to someone a bit out of our reach. This supposed “wrong kind of love” is so prevalent in our thinking. Frequently we look up to those that we have little in common with or fall for people we cannot be with.  Though, whether that is ‘because of’ or ‘in spite of’ I cannot say. Either way, it is one of the most unpredictable elements of the human experience.

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Oh?

Somehow we usually seem to know what or whom we won’t like, but rarely what we will like.  We also have this habit of dichotimizing our feelings; they’re either “good” or “bad”- “right” or “wrong”.  Probably our greatest gift yet we so often contain or minimalize it, as if we are unworthy of reciprocation or above appearing vulnerable to those we care for.  I hate to think that the guise of normality and control is more vital to us than the joy of being true to ourselves, but such is often the case.  Though if we can’t be open about our natures with others, at least let us accept it within ourselves – be cognitive or our feelings and allow ourselves to bask in them. I guess I could say that this is a call to arms to all my similarly repressed kin.

Cease this continually numbing of the spirit, the absolute neglect of your voice. There are people out there who want to hear the things you have to say, and if you stay silent you will never obtain that connection. I’d like to think that the benefits far out weigh the risks in this instance.  But, think of all the awkward social interactions, faux pas, and disjointed eye contact, and possibility of rejection that you are lacking in your life!  Why, you could even grow as a person! No, no- that can’t be good for you; safety and absolute certainty is the way to go.

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Or this…

Up next for me: I’m working on a book review/critique of A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell and compiling a list of songs that have been quite relevant too me recently and interpreting some of the lyrics.  A Curable Romantic is a decent book, but extremely frustrating!  The protagonist is such an absolute goof!  He seems to be socially inept, obviously sexually ignorant, and naive to the point of rage at times. Ugh! As for the songs, I thought it may do well for me to add in some more popular culture and modern expression into my writing. I don’t know, we’ll see how it goes.  Also, I have decided to go back and revise and touch up my previous posts.  I’ve noticed a few redundencies, style errrors, and odd phrasing  within them after reading them out to my therapist. Generally, I like them(more than I thought I would), but I’d like them to flow much more smoothly. At the same time, my Rickman page is being pushed to the back of my mind (it’s just not tangible and, thus, less important to me at the moment) but he is still on my to-do list.   Heh…

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Not Alan Rickman, but just as acceptable.

Passion and the Heart That Melts

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Once there was a little spark named passion.

This little spark was drifting long one day until he came upon a heart, frozen in a thick block of ice.

Passion was instantly concerned! The poor heart was all alone and helpless!

So Passion decided that he would keep the heart company from now on.

Every day after Passion would come and sit next to the heart.

Without fail he would arrive in the morning and remain there, sparking until night had fallen. He wouldn’t move, wouldn’t speak, but he remained just the same.

Eventually month after month of his tenderness towards the heart had begun to pay off.

The heart had slowly begun to melt!

When he returned to his usual spot on one ordinary day, the heart was there with not a bit of ice left!

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Passion was so happy! He began to dance and dance until he grew and grew and finally he became a bright, billowy flame!

He was so overcome with delight he rushed to embrace the little heart and quickly enveloped her. They began to pulsate wildly!

The two began to radiate in a blast of colours and sensations!

The heart glowed and glowed and glowed until eventually she began to cool down.

As the light faded, from the explosion emerged a lone heart composed of the brightest and purest diamond ever seen.

From now until the end of time she would be alone no more. Her friendship with Passion would never die.

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Steadfast – A Poem

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A hundred bare arms reach into the sky, thin, malnourished – the blood within their limbs frozen over, paralyzed. The gracious light from which the hands feed has long vanished- the air around them, thinned and empty.

But these limbs of wood do not withdraw. They continue, continue to strain upwards, strong and hopeful. They do not care- the tree does not care- that night has draped over him, that the air bites at his flesh.

The tree reaches his arms through the black – past the frigid surroundings, past the bleak silence and haunting memories of better days- and waits. He waits for the moment when he may bathe his body in gold and fill his hands with wealth. And in his fortune he shares this bounty with all around- savouring, rejoicing, living.

For the tree is wise and knows that the dawn will come.

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I think this is my first legitimate attempt at a poem. Well, first that I felt any interest in posting. It’s rather raw, and needs some tweaking.  I’m not good with punctuation when it comes to poetry, at least when writing it. Interestingly none of the things that I call “poems” actually sound like poems.  I guess that works; I don’t want to be  poet…

I’m also having some trouble with that last line.  I had originally had “and knows that all things pass” , but that sounded cliche and didn’t feel right at all.  Any suggestions would be lovely.  Or harsh, berating criticism. You know, if that’s your shtick.

I got inspired while taking a walk to check my mail.  I noticed this tree’s branches looked like hundreds of arms shooting upward. It just didn’t seem like a tree to me, but a living thing.  I mean obviously trees are alive, but we don’t often see them as such. It’s difficult to recognize them as things that grow, breathe, and die. Not that I’m saying we should all go out and hug some trees, but you get my gist.

Also, this type of writing is good practise for me.  Not just in terms of my writing, but in how I view my surroundings and my ability to articulate my thoughts on them. My therapist has been talking a lot about changing my reality/perception, becoming a product of my own making, inner divinity- those sorts of things.

Something has changed in me, though.  I feel…different. I think I’m starting to finally realize that I am now a woman, not a girl. However, the meaning of this changes eludes me. I have no clue if I’m late to this, or if I’m arriving precisely at the time I’m supposed to.

Yes. I’m actually a wizard.

The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins

One of the few poems I find myself really inclined towards, I just love the way this reads in my head.  It’s just fun.

I envision the Windhover to be a seagull for some reason.

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-

    dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
    Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
    As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
    Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
    Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
   No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.
~*~*~*~*~*~

I think one of the reasons I’m so inclined towards this poem is because I hear a song when I read it.  It has a pattern, a flow, which I can sing along to.  Yes, it’s a story, but it’s one that told in a very different way. Like a pendulum swinging to and fro, so my mind jumps from word to word, knowing just what points to hit.  It ebbs and flows like a wave as I read it. And that’s just the initial reason that I grew fond of this particular piece.

I also adore the imagery; the description of flight resonates with me. The escape, the freedom – it’s something I’ve often pondered.  It’s also a romantic sort of poem. No, not Romantic, but the loving/longing type.  The recipient of the poem must be quite special to be described in such a way.  I’m not quite as eloquent as describing the sensation as Mr. Hopkins, but it seems spot on.  Rare is the occasion that I allow myself to express feelings towards other people, so when I do it’s pretty major for me. Just the thought of someone close to me knowing how I feel- exposing myself so openly- unravels me a bit.

Anyway, back to the poem…   I haven’t quite worked my way around the language and it’s meaning- mostly due to forgetfulness and a lack of time. Although, it does seem like it is expressing love or admiration for something or someone.  I do want to know this poem pretty well, so I shall attempt to give it another go sometime.

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This post just got 500x more majestic.

The Monogamy Complex

I’d like to start things off with a little blunt honesty. I guess I can be more honest here since it feels like I’m essentially talking to myself. Although, some of the biggest lies are the ones we tell ourselves so take that as you will. I’ve decided to share a little something else about me because, well, simply because I can.

Oh, really?

Oh, really?

Sometimes I smoke as a band-aid, often out of loneliness or despondency.  Sometimes I smoke when I have an idea that I can’t put into words or when I need to express myself in some fashion. Please refrain from judgement; all of the arguments that have been presented in opposition of it have all been considered. I know the stigma surrounding it, I know what the smoke may do to me, but it helps-really.  The past week and a half I’ve finally seen myself in a normal view for the first time.  I finally realized that I had finally become an adult (and a rather attractive one at that)   I finally started seeing the benefits of my life’s work: I was finally healthy- and not in regards to the size that I currently am- after it it spent years in the making.

I guess that kind of leads me into wanting to discuss relationships.  I mean, I just don’t really get them some days.  The more restrictions you put on someone, the less likely you are to adhere to them. For the second time in my life, I find myself somehow dissatisfied with my current relationship.

I don’t know why for the life of me.  He’s what I’ve always hoped to find; He’s very intelligent,  quite attractive, and –surprisingly- finds me attractive. I mean isn’t that the ideal? To be comfortable and safe designated only for each other? I don’t know, I guess I just don’t want to hear any more about what’s ‘typical’, I don’t have that narrow view of what is considered ‘acceptable love- as long as they are all consenting adults. I don’t want some sweeping romance; that’s just not my bag, man.

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Not my bag.

I don’t feel that I need a relationship; it doesn’t make me who I am.  I’m not afraid to be lonely; it can be a very wonderful thing to have the ability to be comfortable with yourself.   So if I do decide to connect with another human being it will have to be a very good reason.  I guess I was just so psyched at first that someone actually thought me attractive and enjoyed my company.

My previous relationship had finally ended its four-year reign. I had started it when I was 14/15 -ish, basically a child. I was not the same person at all after 4 years.  I wanted to progress, to grow and find a place for myself and to have a fulfilling career, but I was stuck with someone who didn’t share that desire.   I could go on about what all issues we had– family, open-mindedness, less of a desire to grow- but I don’t regret any of it.  How could I?  It made me who I am now- for better or for worse- and it will continue to have some role in how I have developed. I know myself better, and am more at ease for expressing myself and my wants.

I guess, that’s not the case now, though.  I’m not sure what I want to do, or what should do.  I do love him, and I want to continue to be connected with him. I just don’t think I can be with someone who doesn’t want for me the same that I want for myself.  Particularly someone so angry and cynical, which is usually the exact opposite of how I am. Someone who loves guns and being hateful to people just to get a reaction out of them. Despite the acceptance I receive from him, I can’t help but feel that something is off.  I care about other people, I don’t like to see anyone in pain- it feels like it’s tearing me apart as well. So, I want to do whatever is within my power to ease that burden.  I don’t know if this is something that I am ever successful at, but I want to try.  At any rate, I have previously had to make a decision that was entirely in my self-interest.

Yes!

Yes!

As difficult as that was, I finally put my own desires before my fear of hurting someone.   I want to be able to connect with more people.  I connect best with people I like, by getting close to them ( physically and mentally). Really, you may have that type of connection with several people in your lifetime. Are you going to ignore anyone else that you care about that much? No, not just simple attraction, but a desire to really know that person. True empathy with another  comes so rarely, that shouldn’t we savor it while it’s within our grasp?  It’s not one of those things that generally happens every day.  Again, -age, size, race, gender- it’s not like you do yourself a service when you repress how you feel towards another person.  It seems like that would be obvious, but so many people do it-myself included. This connection is like a soft breeze that ignites the sparks within us. When that breeze begins to stir, we should let it wash over us, not turn our backs to it.

Maybe I’m just crazy, though.   Maybe this doesn’t really make sense when I explain it.  Just try to make the most of the limited time you have in this universe. We should all be free to  connect to whomever we want to, in whatever manner we so desire.   Married or single, monogamous or not, we should just do what makes us happy. Yes, I am a believer in polyamory- the ability to have a deep, loving connection with more than one individual.  I don’t, however, feel that it should come at someone else’s expense. “Do what you will, but harm none” is, in nutshell, my philosophy.

Whew, that was long-winded, much more than what I expected. I’ve just been so overwhelmed lately, and I discovered that writing is such a release for my inner-self – some way that I can express it. I want to improve my ability to perceive to world around me and to elevate the level of eloquence in which I can describe it. However, I did detect a severe lack of Alan Rickman in this post. Too severe for my taste, so here you go!

I came.

I came.