The Diamonds Along the Way

I don’t consider myself an anti-materialist; not even a minimalist.

My earlier thought was not intended to prop up any of these positions.

I think consumerism is a problem. But not even on its own. There is no great evil in “owning” things. The problem is when we are so accustomed to acquiring things as a way to fill an emotional void that we do not even become fully aware of the presence of this emptiness.

I fear we are all victims of this situation, to a greater or lesser extent.

Buying things feels good. There have been times when it gave me more joy to buy something than to have it, to use it.

When satisfaction is a click away, and the cost is a mere swap of digits on a bank server – far from the visual, real-world metaphor of watching cash depart the wallet – clicking the “buy” button is the most appealing prospect in the world. Doing so releases the chemicals needed to “feel good.”

But the void is not filled. The chemicals disappear, and you have to press the button again. And again. And every time, the chemical high lasts less.

There are some purchases that fill the void. I won’t deny it. But they are not what goes into our shopping carts, most of the time.

It’s the music album that fills us with inspiration, that we can be listening to for the sake of listening, without using it as background for doing something else.

It’s the painting or statue or work of art that calls us to contemplate its beauty whenever we pass by, which brings us closer to the transcendent experience of the divine.

It’s the ring we got from someone who loved or loves us. Or the book we re-read every year, to be transported to our favorite “another world”. Or the movie from which we know every line by heart.

The good stuff lasts.

Objects are not the way, but they can help us find the way. But choose them well, because most are just stones found along the way, stones disguised as diamonds. 

Your job is to pay attention; tell them apart; and recognize that you’ll only find – more or less – one diamond for every thousand stones.

If you just pick them all up, all that’ll happen is that you’ll be weighted down.