Material satisfaction enhances individuality (#) in new and original (#) ways. It is simple (#) living through frugality (#) that strengthens the concept of small is beautiful (#), and less is more (#).
**Materialism puts excessive importance on the pursuit of possessions, and has become a very popular and accepted philosophy. The doctrine of materialism has created an environment in which people work longer hours, human relations are less important, and the spiritual human is becoming extinct.As the line between needs and wants becomes more and more blurred, defining materially satisfied living can be done with greater variety and explanation.
Among many people the idea of materialism has a negative connotation. It is seen as an undesirable ism, an implication of excessiveness that the general population does not look favorably upon. These thoughts are very favorable to the idea of materially satisfied living, but they prompt the question, “Do you practice what you preach?” By simple observation this question can be answered by the general public as “no.” The acquisition of stuff is how many people, even those who are against materialism, define themselves. This is because of our current materialistic, self-seeking, self-satisfying culture. Often times this is the easiest and most immediately satisfying way to do so.
The idea is not to strip away the joy brought through activities, or items, which often times need to be bought. The idea is to decrease the need for such things. Materially satisfied living does not mean living on the fringe of poverty, but rather "living in a way that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich."1 At the minimum it means being well-fed, clothed, and sheltered.
Material acquisition is similar to that of compulsive eating. The underlying cause of a desire is not the need for basic necessities, but rather an attempt to fill some kind of void in life. Both material satisfied living and compulsive eating fail to fill this void that has left the individual wanting more, leaving unsatisfied still. In the current consumer culture and monetary system the avenue most readily available to quench these desires is the acquisition of goods. It makes no difference as to the necessity of the goods, rather the end goal is to have the newest, the best, the fastest, and the most. Because the root of the problem is first and foremost a personal void, merely trying to limit your current level of material acquisition is an inadequate solution, new ways of finding satisfaction must be tried. Contentment must be found from within, the human spirit nurtured, and enriching relationships created and strengthened.
To do this, vast interconnecting public parks could be created. This would provide an alternative to large private property purchases where the land is for the sole use of an individual or family. In addition, the neighborhood could once again become a place of involvement and belonging. Individuals could create a new way of living, one that avoids expensive and impersonal mega corporations. A neighborhood version of craigslist could be built. An internet site where everything is shared and recycled among each other. The list could contain tools, books, and manuals, an inventory of the neighborhood’s possessions for communal use. It could provide a way to organize a local recycling center, and even post skills that one neighbor would be willing to volunteer to another. This would begin to create a basic cast of increasing interactions and relationships between individuals and communities as a whole.
The material culture is not a result of wealth as one might think, though it is perpetuated by the desire to at least appear wealthy. In Montana where the average annual salary is approximately $26,000 the material culture is just as prevalent as it is in New York City, where the average annual salary is approximately $49,000. Montanans acquire items that typically suit their large geographic area. Buying a truck is sufficient, until the need arises to purchase a car, then a dirt bike, a boat, and finally a truck that is more capable than the first. The same is true of guns, clothes, jewelry, movies, and so on. These items are fun, provide entertainment, make life interesting and more comfortable, but the pursuit of these things can become unhealthy. Increased debt and stress, a longer work week, and less time for relaxation and family, are all a byproduct of this life. Possessions are soon the defining aspect of the individual, and keeping up with the Joneses becomes the goal. “Life” is put on hold, conversations turn superficial, the earths natural beauty is ignored, relationships are overlooked and simple pleasures are replaced by those that are out of reach or require much to obtain.
The monetary system impacts every aspect of our lives, consequently we structure them according to this model. Of the 168 hours available in each week, Americans sleep about 30% and work about 54% of that time. The reason why we are left with only 16% of our weekly hours to do with as we please, is due to our hunger for materials that must be paid for. The practice has become so ritualistic that breaking from it requires determination and a radical change in how you live. An example of just how difficult it is to break away from these rituals, is in an interview that was conducted with a Billings mother of two. The idea of a buy-nothing Christmas was proposed in order to enhance family interactions, and to reduce the focus of celebrating material acquisition. The reaction from the mother was one of shock. She was puzzled that something so foreign could even be considered a possibility. Unfortunatelys reaction like this can be expected in teh culture we live in today. It shows just how difficult our cultural rituals make it for a real change in how we live our lives to take place.
In order to live a materially satisfied lives we must find an appropriate balance (#) between needs and wants. Teach conservation (#) and rural skills (#) on a broad level, and create new traditions (#) that challenge the status quo.