This editorial first appeared February 11, 2011, in issue 1906.
With February 14 just around the corner, the card companies, chocolate manufacturers, and florists are out in full force. With all that comes the inevitable barrage of Valentine?s-related media, ranging from romantic classics marathons on the old movies channel to pop psychology articles encouraging us to use the holiday as a springboard to improve relationships in all aspects of our lives. And of course there are the countless op-ed rants about the commercialism That’s destroyed the meaning of the holiday?or about our materialism in general.
Because we love our possessions too much. And That’s the problem, right? Isn’t it that love of stuff that gets in the way of our relationships with others?and with ourselves?
Maybe not. According to some thoughts posted on TreeHugger.com, we’ve got it all backwards: our materialism problem comes from the fact that we don’t love our stuff enough. Because we don’t love or appreciate what we have, we get bored with it quickly and waste time, effort, and emotional (not to mention financial) resources on the constant business of trading it in for more and better.
The blogger likens this relationship to the ?consumer equivalent . . . of a one night stand,? calling it more like ?lust? than anything else. I love that imagery. And it rings true; when it comes to possessions, we’re pretty fickle, tending to discard them quickly in order to chase after the next cool thing.
On the other hand, improving our relationship with the things we already have opens a lot of doors. For example, we’re no longer slaves to what I call the ?2.0 phenomenon??our endless pursuit of the bigger model, the new gotta-have-it toy. Breaking the bonds of that type of consumerism brings a certain level of contentment. ?Need? and ?want? meld into one, and we’re more peaceful because we no longer have to get anything. we’re good with what we’ve got.
Ironically, as the TreeHugger blogger pointed out, this attitude means our stuff will actually end up being better. After all, if we’ve got commitment in mind, we’ll want to make sure that what we buy will be a good fit for us for the long haul. This means that we’ll gravitate toward the better made, the more practical, and the more suited to us.
As a result, we’ll also be better off financially. Committing to our purchases, rather than buying them because we want them right now (although maybe not tomorrow or next week) will do much to reduce the problem of consumer debt. Without the constant ?need? to replace what we’ve got with something better, overspending’s much less of an issue.
There are society-wide benefits, too: we’ll end up living a more sustainable lifestyle, and not merely because we’ll throw fewer things in the trash. In fact, we’ll reduce manufacturing drains on resources all the way down the chain.
And most importantly, loving our ?stuff??or renewing our commitment to what we have and what we buy?can bring peace not only within ourselves but within our families and among our friends. Jealousy, greed, and other possession-related squabbles are replaced with contentment, peace, and financial freedom. How’s that for a sweet Valentine’s Day gift?