Materialism

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When I had gone to the vision board party, one of the tasks was to dream big and find pictures that represent our wishes and paste them onto the board. We had piles of magazines that ranged from gossip to golf to science. Leafing through them, I could find pretty much anything my heart desired. But there was a problem. Leafing thought the mags, I saw nothing that struck a cord. Except a picture of Jason Momoa as Aquaman because I want more tattoos. But that’s within my reach. In other words, I didn’t need a vision board to help me manifest this.

I had a feeling that this was going to happen. Having it played out in front of me confirmed that I strive to live more like a minimalist; someone who doesn’t need excessive materialistic things. To be clear, I have things: caR, I’m Appled out, an iron horse. So in that respect I’m a hypocrite. In my defense, I enjoy all of the things that I own. However, they do not bring me happiness. To me joy and happiness are two different things.

I see so many people buy things for no real reason except maybe to fill some emptiness that lies within. Instead of addressing that emptiness, they buy things to try and fill it. I think there are two basic problems with this approach. One is that the emptiness is within the individual. Second, buying something gives people that endorphin rush. I’ve been addicted to new stuff. I totally get it. But it can hurt the wallet.

My sister has five different ways of heating food up. The oven. A microwave. A toaster oven. A hot air oven. And she recently bought a portable steamer.

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An acquaintance of mine asked me what I had thought about the new iPad Pro. I told him that I went to an Apple store and played with it. Very nice. But my original iPad Pro that I had bought three years ago still works well. I do almost everything with it. Writing. Blogging. I watch all my streaming services on it; I don’t have a TV. The new iPad wouldn’t do anything different for me. He said he was thinking of upgrading.

Why, I asked.

The processor is faster, he answered.

What do you do on it that you need a faster processor?

He shrugged. I draw on it sometimes.

Dude, how fast do you draw that you need a faster processor?

Another acquaintance came up to me in Starbucks a few weeks ago. He looked excited and told me he had good news.

You get a blow job, I asked.

His eyebrows lowered against his eyes. No, I bought a new car.

Don’t you have two already?

Yeah. I traded the SUV in.

He has a sports car that he daily drives and had bought and financed a new sedan. Because he needed more room than his sports car could provide? Which is why he got rid of the SUV? Or he needed a smaller car because his SUV was too big? I was a bit confused at this point.

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The issue is that the emptiness within a person is bottomless. That person could buy everything in the world and still have that emptiness within them because they’re not trying to find out what is causing that emptiness. Instead they’re trying to fill that emptiness with stuff, and that hole is devouring it up.

The new Netflix special, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, shows how stressful people can be when they have a lot of stuff. After getting rid of the shit they don’t need, the people on the show feel relaxed and serene. We as Americans have too much stuff. I mean, it’s not a surprise that we have to either buy bigger homes or rent storage spaces in order to store our endless junk.

Hypocrites, raise your hands.

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I’m guilty. I have two cars. But at least I didn’t go into debt buying a second car.

The question should now be: What is this emptiness?

It could be anything. Lack of confidence. Loneliness. Living a purposeless life. The game is to explore yourself and find out. Honestly, that’s the fun part. For me, I knew I was a creative. So I explored different outlets before settling on writing and storytelling. That took a lot of time. For example, I delved into acting for three years before jumping out of it. But, man, that was fun. I learned so much about myself going on stage and acting. It was one of the big steps that opened me up to me. Since then, I have never left the deep end.

Happy Happy Joy Joy

I told a friend that I wanted to take a six-month sabbatical from work and travel the world. He knows that I spend a lot of time writing at Starbucks. So we were taking one night and he urged, more like proclaimed, that I go on my sabbatical immediately because that would make me happy. There must have been an awkward look on my face because my friend tried harder to convince me that I’d be happy traveling.

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I’ve talked about this before, the difference between happiness, being content and at peace, versus the enjoyment of an experience.

What’s interesting is that people mix happiness and joy up a lot. They often link happiness with having things like cool cars, cool clothes, cool watches, cool boyfriends or girlfriends. Essentially, their status in life determines their level of happiness. The problem is that status can be taken away, and the enjoyment of an experience is always temporary. So if I buy a super cool car, I’ll feel the joy of having a new toy, but eventually I’m going to need a new experience to get another endorphin hit. That can mean buying something new over and over again, sort of like a drug habit. So it’s no surprise that the poorest people in America tend to carry the most credit card debt. They may not be satisfied with their lot in life, so they try to buy their way into happiness.

Happiness is being content with where you are in life. Not that people can’t strive to be better, but they do not need anything in order to be happy. There is nothing that people need to do because contentment and peace is the natural state of the mind. It’s one of the reasons why people tout meditation as a way to center oneself. From what little I know about meditation, it aims to quiet the mind, lessening the number of thoughts that crowd your head.

When we look at why people are unhappy, or unsatisfied with life, most of the time it’s the comparison phenomenon. For example, if my friend gets a super cool car, and he’s younger than I am, I may think to myself, “I’m a loser because I don’t have a super cool car. How’d he get it before me?” Then I may feel like crud cuz I just drive a champagne-colored Toyota Camry. So even though my natural state is peace, I cover that up with a cruddy thought. And thoughts are the main driver of our emotions.

This is evident given how advertisers prey on our emotions. The Axe commercials are a classic example.

We see this commercial and think, “Yeah, that could work.” So we men go out and buy Axe Body Spray with the hopes of getting more chics. Of course, when this reality doesn’t manifest itself, we become unhappy because our expectations weren’t met.

That’s another thing. Expectations. Society has a knack for telling us that we’re not fulfilling our full potential and we should expect more. However, life has no schedule. People come into their own on their own time. I know. That either sounds obvious or repetitive. Or both! Still, if we are judging ourselves by what society dictates, then we’ll find ourselves falling behind or trying to keep pace with it. Even if we find that we’re ahead of the game, we’ll self-impose a new bar, goal, and chase that. What we fail to enjoy is the journey. Even though there is enjoyment in finishing a project, the journey is the most important part. The trials and tribulations of creating often leads to great wisdom and skill. Without this aspect, our civilization will become stagnant.

I write every day because that’s my temperament. My writing requires that I do this on a daily basis, that I continue to learn to hone my craft. And I’m at peace when I write, except when I want to kill a character and that character needs to complete an important task. So I’m not sure if my friend sees me writing and assumes that I’m not happy. But I think he links happiness and joy together and they’re really two different things.

Double D

Supa Large
Supa Large

About a month ago, a long time coworker had left the company, and it sparked the idea of happiness. Not that I was happy he left, nor did I really care. His initials were D. D. At first, I wanted to call him Dee Squared, but as the name sounded, it was two square. It matched up well, though, because he was Asian and very good at math. So, there was depth in the name. However, many people have called my humor dry, so I guess I need to spit more when I joke, and here his name Double D was born.

"Hey, Double D," I called out. My fellow coworkers turned around and started giggling. As you can see, my professionalism at the office is top notch.

At first, he didn't respond, then stated he didn't like being called Double D, but I persisted. Then it caught on as others started to use his monicker. And, like a knee jerk reaction, he started to respond as if he was born with the name.

My then girlfriend and I took him skiing many years ago, he was hitting on her because he didn't know I was dating her. Well, he hit on her because he liked her, but he wouldn't have if he knew. I think. Afterward, we went to dinner at a steakhouse, nothing better than meat after a hard day of snowboarding in the warm California sun.

The conversation swerved to happiness and the cause of happiness. He was unhappy. He didn't own a house. According to him, he should have at his age. He didn't have a wife, a nice car, high enough income, the list rolled on and on. I told him none of that stuff would cause happiness. You either are, or you decide not to be.

Before I found writing, I went on a soul searching venture. I knew I wanted to do something creative, so I tried everything. I drew, painted, wrote poetry and stories, taught martial arts, acted for several years, worked on opening my own school, but nothing made me happy. Then I came up with the brilliant idea to write the one story that has been tugging at me for over twenty years. And bam! My soulmate, or who I thought was my soulmate, and I ended it.

Doubo Happeeness
Doubo Happeeness

Gawd...it was soul-wrenching painful. I cried for nearly a year. Well, not constantly. But it provided the muse I needed to put into words, plot, and emotional state to write Nightfall. You see, my main character, Talon, loses a child, and the only thing I could come close to was the intense body-numbing pain of a broken relationship. Still no happiness in the sense of finally finding and writing the story that had haunted me.

What the hell?

Was I fulfilled? Yes. Was I purposeful? Fuck yeah. And those haunting voices slowly subsided, in a good way. I was on destiny's road. But was I happy? Not really.

Then it smacked me in the face. Hard! Like a punch that you don't see cause you're not lookin'. Happiness was a choice! Sort of.

I'd been on the spiritual path of enlightenment for some time, trying to decipher the cryptic language of oneness, all for one, one for all, the source, the higher intelligence, inner intelligence, inner wisdom, living in the moment, the present, the Buddhaness, the perseverance of the Hesus story.

And I realized, happiness is born with us, innate. You see it with babies, that joy, that connection they have with their parents. You see happiness when kids play, pretending, not yet tarnished by the limitations of adulthood. You see this with geniuses, who don't let others' limiting thoughts hinder them. Happiness, after all, is not a choice, but part of our being. We are born with the ability to think and feel, just as we are born to be happy, and lather it with sadness. We choose to be sad, otherwise we are just happy, content.

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Double D had bought a nice car and had moved out of the room he rented and into his new home in the suburbs. He had found a job with more pay, maybe a better title. But he wasn't happy. I know this, even though I hadn't spoken to him since that dinner because in the years since he's bought his home, none of his friends have ever seen it. They know what city it's in and were promised an invite to a house warming party that never came. What was going on? He was afraid of being judged. For what, I do not know. But maybe somehow he thought that he wasn't enough, the car wasn't impressive, or that his house was in some way representative of who he was (too small?). In essence, I assume, his happiness was linked to others' perceptions of him. If that is the case, then he will never be happy. Even if people revere him, he knows, as we all do, that opinions can change with a drop of a hat.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't be unhappy, because life has its ups and downs, but that happiness is our natural state. If you think about it, it takes a lot of work and effort to be unhappy. That's why meditation is often the solution to this. To quiet your mind is to quiet the crap that stresses us out.