The emptiness that consumerism cannot fill

We may present an ordered and capable face to the outside world but we know a private chaos as our inner truth. We like to offer up the semblance and structure of coherence even if that appearance itself harms our health and well-being. The ambition to “succeed” – whatever that may mean –  can indeed be used as a shield, an escape from self-reflexion. The fact that we can’t solve our problems from the outside in doesn’t mean we won’t try to – again and again. Ironically it’s only in “failure” that many are able to look through the illusions and find the true success they didn’t even know they were looking for.

To reduce life to its core, to discard the activities that are inessential to a fulfilling existence is a process seemingly without end. It’s both sad and liberating to discover that strictly for oneself there is nothing to live for; every motive is revealed to be driven either by gene survival, ego games or sensory urges, all automatic responses that could be performed by a robot. What’s left once self-centered activities have been filtered out is a bare aestheticism, a minimalism not just of things but more essentially of thoughts, hinting eventually of a faint tracing of the unity of objects, events, perceptions.

Rather than cluttering up our lives the true purpose of possessions is as tools to help clear time and space for inquiry. Beyond that they have no meaning. It’s a relief to release the suffocating weight of ownership, to attend to our real well-being rather than the false social standing we hope is conferred by our possessions, be they material or otherwise. Even to conclude about oneself has a subtle sense of ownership and to own even purely psychologically is later to suffer. We dig a hole within us that shopping bags or social status can’t fill.

The future self is also a possession; while entranced by an imaginary future an actual present passes us by. Alternatively we can reject the unreality of becoming and just be, be here and now, be content to be still, to be witness. The paradox is actual achievement is often then more likely only not as a goal but as an unlooked-for by-product. Becoming is not only less tangible than being but less effective too.

We all want “security” but effectively what this means is to close ourselves off from change, that is from life. Security in the sense we yearn for doesn’t exist and wouldn’t be worth having even if it did. Acceptance of change, that is that the being we are now will not continue, is not just healthy but reality itself. 

Understanding as art and science