Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why We Need Things

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If you can reduce our human evolution to one common theme, it's our gradual increasing dependency on "things." We, the people, who will own more than 400 appliances and electronic devices in our lifetime (Massimini, 1989). As a green-ist originally from the Bay Area, I can immediately point out the problem with this type of uncontrolled proliferation.

Aside from increasing resource depletion, the main problem lies in the intentionalities of man-made objects themselves. It's the need of having to improve on an existing product, whether it be to compete with another similar object or to simply "upgrade." It's how we gauge a better life with our psychological dependence on the cozy anthropocentric illusion of having control. And finally, it's the symbolic power of objects that help define who we are.

Like how the first Indian would carve his knife until sharper than any other man's in his tribe, the item he wields is an extension of his own will - a surrogate of sorts. Today, we have kinetic objects that help define us: cars, boats, and bikes. Or, for all the intellectuals out there, the act of accumulating art - fine or digital. As illogical as it is, the desire to display one's individuality is the largest driver in technological advancement, even more so than survival or comfort.

From the memories held in books to emotions held in music blaring from a stereo; all of these are experiences designed to control the cognitive entropy within our minds, tracking our greatest memories, and attaching us to objects that would essentially be without meaning if not for the contextual human connection. Hence, the paradox of human materialism isn't due to our desire to destroy our planet, but rather our need to transform the precariousness of consciousness into solid items (Csikszentmihalyi, 1981).

While the solution to this human ecological condition is probably no simple one-sentence answer, forcibly disciplining our consciousness may be the first step to a possible cure. That means inner control of Vietnamese Buddhist monk stature.
Stepping away from objectified consciousness and realizing items are merely tools in our lives, not all-defining.

Though, to be completely honest, I do kind of enjoy being a materialistic goober, don't you?


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