I have to admit, and I do so without any shame; I love food. I love to cook it, bake it, you name it. I also love to eat it. If a Genie came to my house and offered me 3 wishes one would inevitably be “calories will no longer make you fat.” That wish would obviously come after ending world hunger, solving all of the hatred in the world, and a Lions Super Bowl championship. Oh wait, that’s 4 wishes. I digress…
I love food. I crave food. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
And though too much food, or bad food, can lead to a great deal of unhealthiness, we need food.
What I often liken in our society to food is “stuff.” By stuff I mean material goods. I mean all that “stuff” that we forward past seeing during 2 minute television interruptions.
The Fitbit I have clipped to my waistband.
The iPhone 4S sitting next to me.
The many laptops spread around the house, the toys in the garage, and the boxes of old CDs, or videos in closets and nooks where we shove them.
It’s our national pastime, and our extra chewy dark fudge brownie with 3 scoops that we will never cut out of our unhealthy living and spending diet.
Material goods and food: fraternal twins in our social experiment in craving.
In Buddhism, one is taught that when you crave now, you suffer later. In my favorite book that I reference quite frequently (It’s Easier Than You Think), the author believes that in fact when you crave now you suffer NOW.
There is essentially nothing wrong with “stuff.” We need some things, and we enjoy other things. “Stuff” has the ability to enhance our lives, or make our lives run a bit smoother. All praise helpful or happy stuff.
The struggle, however, comes from that bottomless pit of craving that can never be filled. I believe “stuff” has a very long term contract in place with that bottomless never satisfied pit. Don’t you think?
With food, people typically have a taste for something, and then the craving passes. Sometimes one eats the item of their craving to quench their desire, and sometimes the desire just passes with time. Food is also typically a response of having an appetite, and hopefully appetites can be satisfied. Our hunger comes and goes, as we are never permanently full. The same also seems true of our hunger for things.
One day our material desire might be the new video system everyone is talking about. We think about it for weeks, we browse prices and sales for days, and sometimes we even wait in ridiculous lines to make a purchase. We finally quench the thirst when we purchase the object of our desire. We take it home and play with it. We show it to visitors that come to the house. We have fun with it and everything feels right with the world. Then, we lose our interest. The desire for “stuff”, although temporarily quenched by the new game, really only lay in hiding until Apple releases its latest iPhone update, or Macy’s announces an earth shattering sale on Gucci bags.
It’s a desire that is rarely satisfied for long, and a desire that although recognizable to most, is hard to combat in a world built upon desire. Our society has built a foundation predicated on people always wanting “things.”
It’s all very confusing, as many people go to church or read books on fulfillment, enlightenment and the “truth” of happiness coming from within and not on external rewards. Then we leave church or put down the book and are bombarded with television ads, twitter feeds, billboards, and the quest for the “American Dream,” which translates into bigger and better “stuff.” How does it all add up?
I’d say my favorite quote, “the race is long and in the end it’s only with yourself,” but the truth is that where “things” are concerned there is no race. There is just a bottomless pit of unending desire.
I think the key with “stuff,” as it truly is with food, is moderation. Learning to approach material goods with the mindset of a healthy and wise eater is trans-formative. It’s about understanding and acceptance. It’s not about filling a void, or putting a Band-Aid on boredom. After all, today’s stuff is just tomorrow’s garage sale stuff. “Oh,” I yawn…boring!