Happiness and the Marketing of False Idols, Shiny Objects and Lambo Dreams
In this age of the Internet, it's pretty much inevitable that we end up on various email marketing lists.
Because Mrs. Denmarkguy and I are often involved with various spiritual and self-development type things, I get my share of sales pitches related to a cornucopia of personal betterment and spiritual awakening type programs, workshops and retreats.
Now, the US Constitution allegedly grants us the inalienable right.... "to the pursuit of happiness," and that's probably a good a fine thing... but...
Happiness is a Shiny Box?
Yet another lengthy and quite persuasive email, assuring me that some seminar series (currently 50% off at just $399!) is really all I need to develop a better life; a meaningful life, a happy life.
I looked at it — because I'm always curious about the current flavor of snake oil programs — and considered the thousands of marketing messages from so-called "self-made successes," posing in front of their beachfront mansions while doing Yoga at the edge of their infinity pools in locales where the sun is always setting and there is never a breeze or a cloud in the sky.
I suppose what bothers me about it is the seeming paradox that the people are typically pitching states of being and feelings, yet they are always equating them various forms of "HAVING."
"Looking for inner peace? Here's a picture of me next to my Rolls Royce!"
Maybe I'm just old and jaded, but experience — and meeting lots and lots of people on the road to happiness — has shown me that the sort of "happiness" that comes with buying a mansion, having a lambo, or a 50-foot sailboat tends to be — at best — an extremely fleeting sense of accomplishment that passes and inevitably leaves the person questing for the next acquisition.
Which sort of also answers the question of why "rich people" tend to keep pursuing even more riches after they have already become very very rich.
Sustainable contentment does not come from the brief dopamine shots of acquisition...
Just Because You're Shitty at Making Money...
Of course, there are a bunch of nay sayers (who typically "drank the Kool-aid") who argue that I only make such observations because I don't have those things, and I lack the drive, life skills and determination to obtain them.
Not so fast, Sherlock...
Not many people know this about me, but I actually grew up among many of these uber-wealthy people. What I observed — as a very inquisitive 15-20 year old — was that the incidence of depression, alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide was far higher among these "shiny" people than among the broader population.
I have one particular memory of being about age 19, where I found myself at a party, standing on the aft deck of a 150+ foot luxury yacht in a swank Mediterranean resort town, watching the owner's two pet jaguars (the animal, not the car) drugged and bored out their minds, living sad and miserable lives purely as another piece of the "ornamentation" of this person's "glamorous" life.
Somehow, it has always stayed with me as a surreal wake-up moment. And I felt deep sadness for the cats...
Yes, but You're STILL Crying...
Apologists for seeking happiness through materialism often make arguments like "well, isn't at better to be crying and depressed while driving a new Mercedes than an old wreck?"
It's a remarkably popular figure of speech used to defend the pursuit of material wealth as a means of finding happiness.
If you think about it, it's actually worse.
You're sitting in your luxury car crying and being depressed... so in spite of your relentless pursuit of objects you're now showing me that you're still not happy? At least when I'm sitting in my beaten-up 1982 VW Rabbit that just crapped out again I actually have a reason to be sad!
In case this sounds familiar, I have used this anecdote before...
Look! You Can Have ALL THIS!
The thing about these ads I was looking at this morning... and millions like them... is that they are "training" people to pursue something in the name of "success and happiness" that won't actually deliver what they are looking for.
Let me make it perfectly clear that I have nothing against people who ambitiously choose to chase material wealth... power to them. My issue is in marketers "packaging" those material goods as happiness, because that's a severe misrepresentation.
I use the word "they" because I'm not looking for that. The minor epiphany I had is that I have actually never been looking for that.
Even when I was 20 years old and "full of piss and vinegar," my idea of "success" was being able to have a comfortable roof over my head, the knowledge that I didn't have to worry about being able to pay my bills, and have enough for good food (because food matters!) and maybe an occasional trip or two.
If there was anything left over, I might buy a piece of art or two.
Back then, I figured I needed about $50 a day. It's now almost 40 years later, and I figure I need about $100 a day... and $20 of that is our "set aside" to pay annual property taxes, and another is "set aside" because we will soon need a new roof on aforesaid house.
And maybe therein lies the lesson: Few people figure their lives based on what they need, just on what they want. And most of the time, they don't even know what they "want."
Thanks for reading and have a great remainder of your weekend!
How about YOU? How do YOU think we arrive at happiness? And if not "happiness," then at least a sense of lasting "contentment?" What REALLY matters in life? Comments, feedback and other interaction is invited and welcomed! Because — after all — SOCIAL content is about interacting, right? Leave a comment — share your experiences — be part of the conversation!
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Created at 20210327 20:08 PDT