The emptiness within us that shopping bags cannot fill

A holistic lifestyle commitment sits oddly, may be incompatible even with our usual human competitive drive. It’s not like a gym membership, a slice of the day that can be partitioned off for aggressive thoughts of self-inflation but is life itself complete and indivisible. Entering the arena of personal achievement might feel stimulating and productive for an hour or so – I’m not recommending it even then however – but camping out there all day will eventually and paradoxically wear down both resolve and sensibility, dissolving any apparent triumph like a sand castle under the waves. The very act of grasping for security triggers further insecurity.

We may present an ordered and capable face to the outside world but we know our private confusion is what we actually live with. Oftentimes work and ambition in general is used as an escape into something that at least gives the semblance and structure of coherence even if harming our health and well-being. The fact that we can’t solve our problems from the outside in doesn’t mean we won’t try to again and again. While entranced by an imaginary future an actual present passes us by.

A snatching of gratifications often parallels thoughts of achievement and the future. This subject – object viewpoint, emphasizing the division between self and non-self as it does, creates isolation and unhappiness and is fertile ground for the fake consolation of indulgence. 

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.

Rather than cluttering up our lives the true purpose of possessions is as tools to help clear time and space for inquiry. 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 media can’t fill.

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 action is revealed to be driven either by gene survival, ego expansion or sheer animal sensuality. What’s left is a bare aestheticism, a minimalism not just of things but more essentially of thoughts, eventually giving a faint tracing of wholeness.

Understanding as art and science