As I was browsing through a bookstore last week, I picked up the Dalai Lama’s book of wisdom and flicked it to a random page. I can’t remember the exact wording of the quote, but it was something along the lines of materialism being a barrier to happiness. I thought about how unbelievably true it is, and how materialism has left us as individuals less satisfied than if we were poor. Confused? Let me explain.
It has come to my attention how dissatisfied my generation (Generation Y) and Generation X-ers are compared to the Baby Boomers and the Builders Generation from the World War and the Depression. Generally, we have problems staying in any one job for a long period of time because we get bored. We see new technology on television, like 32 inch plasma TV’s, iPods, video games and satellite navigation technology, and we want them. We think that our life would improve if we had them. Then we get them and realise nope, that hasn’t made me happy, it hasn’t satisfied me, and then we look for the next thing we think will do that.
So my question is this. Has the information age and the increase of “new”, “improved” and “convenient” technology been the downfall of our happiness? Has the availablitiy of all these new things made us forget the simple joy of hanging out with your family, having a picnic or just being still?
A few weeks ago I was at a funeral and I began to think about the differences between generations. I know, I know, strange place to be thinking about things like that, but if you let me explain, you’ll understand why.
My previous next door neighbor’s Pop died at aged 86. During the eulogy the family mentioned several things that he loved to do, the main one being going for walks along the beach with his family, collecting shells. Come again? Collecting shells? With his family? To have the pleasure to enjoy something so simple and carefree is almost like existing in another era. Can you imagine our generation being content with collecting shells during our adult life? Even when we (Gen x and y) were children the things we enjoyed to do were much simpler and so different to what I assume children today enjoy.
“What did you enjoy doing when you were a kid?” I asked my husband.
“I dunno…shoot stuff…blow things up…that sort of thing,” (he was a country boy).
“What do you think kids these days enjoy doing?”
“I dunno…shoot things and blow things up on playstation?”
He was probably right.
The days of simplicity are long gone. Our grandparents and parents were content to have one job and stick with it for their entire lives. Our generation will go through several career changes before we retire. Our parents and grandparents were happy just to have jobs and food and a roof over their head. Our generation wants the dream house and the dream job and the dream car, and isn’t satisfied when we get it. We always want more, never being content with what we have, never taking time to slow down and look around and think “gee, I’m actually pretty lucky. I have great friends, a great family, a job.” We are always looking into the future.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. We need that part of ourselves to always want more or humanity would never evolve. But how did it get to be this bad, where what we have got no longer makes us happy? Is it because we don’t even know what makes us happy anymore? Should we be titled “The Lost Generation”?
This is why I really believe the wisdom of the Dalai Lama when he says materialism is a barrier to true happiness. As long as we have attachments to material possessions, we will always feel dissatisfied and will always be wanting more, never satisfied with what we have in the here and now, and never truly being happy.
Hippies have got it right. Why do they all look “unkempt” and carefree? It’s not because they don’t care, it is because they know what’s important in life: friendship, companionship, good health, wisdom and love. Not televisions, cars and fancy houses, designer clothes and expensive makeup.
Let’s get back to basics, because less really is more.