Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Why the simple life?

I have been reading an interview with a psychologist of happiness, Tim Kasser. (Click on the title of this post to go to it.) He says—

"We propose four psychological needs. The first is safety/security, which is the need to feel like you'll survive, like you are not in danger, like you will have enough food and water and shelter to make it another day. The second is need to feel like you are skillful and able to do the things that you set out to do: I need to feel like a good psychologist, you might need to feel like a good journalist, etc. The third is connection or relatedness, which concerns having close, intimate relationships with other people. The fourth need is for freedom or autonomy, which is feeling like you do what you do because you choose it and want to do it rather than feeling compelled or forced to do it. . .
A materialistic lifestyle tends to perpetuate feelings of insecurity, to lead people to hinge their competence on pretty fleeting, external sources, to damage relationships, and to distract people from the more fun, more meaningful, and freer ways of living life."

I found this last especially interesting.

What is meant by "a materialistic lifestyle," I wondered. I'd say it's a close synonym for the lifestyle promoted by "the consumer economy." And I wonder if part of the anger of Main Street about the first proposed bailout is based on people's suspicion that they were badly tricked. Tricked into believing that more is better, that things will make you happy or free, that it's not only okay, but right to work yourself to death for money.

Especially interesting is Kasser's observation that an emphasis on things (money) leads us to depend on external sources for happiness. Turn on the TV or open Oprah's magazine, look anywhere, and you will see the rich trying to convince you that this car, this beer, this fashion statement will make you free and happy. Has it ever?

I am at that stage of life where one feels saddled with things you spent a lot for---say a $100 Ann Klein purse, back when that was real money---and don't use, don't want, and can hardly stand to give away. Why is that? Sunk cost. I invested so much in this, now it owns me.

The photo today is not of Walden Pond, but was taken on a trip to Dawes Arboretum with my friend, Barb, from the Japanese teahouse, where we sat and had some tea and didn't do much. Wrote a few haiku. The picture carries a memory that has given me more pleasure, honestly, than that purse.

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