Surviving a culture where more is deemed essential

Surviving a culture where more is deemed essential

Our culture, especially the economic side of it, is based entirely on the idea that you can never have enough. The concept of always wanting more—more money, more materials goods, more health, more happiness—is so deeply embedded in our thinking that to many the alternative seems scarcely intelligible.

At almost every moment, we are assailed by advertising and marketing, whose constant themes are more, better, bigger, faster. We blithely assume that progress—material progress as well as progress in knowledge and technology—is the obvious goal of human existence. To stand still is barely considered. To go backwards is obvious failure.

I’m not saying that any of this is wrong. I am glad to live with today’s levels of comfort and material possessions—and especially healthcare—and not those of 100 years ago or more. But it does seem reasonable to ask whether there could ever be situations in which being content with enough, and therefore wanting no more, might be desirable.

The writer of Zen Habits raised precisely this question recently (Key Question: How Much Is Enough?) and suggested a number of ways that you might know when remaining content with what you have, or even opting for greater frugality, might be the wise course.

What are the main things that make you happy? Are they material things, or are they people, or activities? Knowing the answer to this question can give you some insight into what material things you actually need beyond the bare necessities, in order to be happy.

As mankind moves towards having a greater and greater impact on this planet—to the extent that human desires might eventually render large parts of it uninhabitable—asking when enough should be enough seems a totally rational question.