I wonder if we will ever revisit a time when the concept of “less is more” will return to our collective consciousness. Moderation in theory, is a wonderful concept, and could probably be easily achieved in a society that seeks it as a value or a period of time where excessivity is not an option. I was a product of parents who suffered through the depression and World War Two. There was a daily need to “make do”. I remember my mothers’ constant reminders on saving money. She was the essence of frugality. I grew up feeling that nothing could be truly savored “too much” since there could come a day when you wouldn’t have it. When I look back I wish I had incorporated more of my mothers’ sense of financial wisdom. In fact I believe the government would have not gotten into as much of an economic quagmire if my mother was in charge of the treasury. Unfortunately, we live in a time when we are constantly assaulted with messages that tell us we’re not okay unless we purchase the latest gadget or we aspire to look or feel good. Essentially they’re saying we got the goods so ante up and you’ll feel so much better. That means we need to go out and buy something that does the trick for us. I certainly have been caught up in that never-ending abyss. I have purchased more undergarments, makeup, toiletries, and clothing that I was convinced would change my appearance and essentially ended up making me look worse not better. Believe me, I’m not promoting walking around looking like you were just rescued from a collapsed coal mine. But there is room for common sense. None of the aforementioned provides miracles. It’s all temporary! Once you remove it you’re back to square one. Last night I saw a commercial that featured the latest facial cream developed by a celebrity dermatologist. It was about the same price as a Porsche. They showed the before and after of popular actresses faces who after the first few applications had visible lines, and looked years younger. Perhaps after a year of applying this elixir they will return to the womb. Believe me, I like moisturizers and body lotions. But I’ve also gotten a lot of mileage from Vaseline. What we never see commercials of is ads advocating for fresh fruits, vegetables, fresh air, a good nights’ sleep and a prescription for laughter. In the end looking and feeling good is an inside job. The rests are simply garnishes!
Over the years I have witnessed our culture going from one that was more invested in worrying about the outcomes of their behavior than of gratifying their every desire. We do seem to have moved into a time where “wanting” has overshadowed “judging” as to whether what we “want” makes sense. The ability to be wise about the decisions we make in our own behalf or those near and dear to us seems to be a lost art. Being able to develop wisdom is not something our educational system teaches, and we definitely don’t get it from the media. The great philosophers often made commentaries on wisdom and saw it as one of life’s greatest assets. It has become more and more difficult to access wisdom, due to the fact that we have become more interested in immediate gratification. Ads pummel us daily insisting that whatever their selling is something we “must” have. Their relentless marketing hypes have seeped into our unconscious and made us feel that even when we get the desired object, we are not happy with it for long for there will soon be something better on the horizon. These ads are developed with the help of scientists who now know that baiting people with the need for stuff releases dopamine, a substance in the brain that gives us pleasure. Unfortunately, when we access dopamine too frequently we need more and more to get the same response, and so we become addicted to “wanting and having”, “getting and then wanting more”. This is similar to being hooked on alcohol or drugs. Learning to be wise increases our capabilities to have self-control, which is a necessary factor in becoming a mature, evolved human being. My mother often reminded me that I had to learn to “think about what I was thinking about”. I used to rail against this statement, but now I realize that we would all be better off if we embraced her metaphor for wise living. Wisdom is important for peace, economic prudence, political leadership, and health. Without it we will continue to be at the mercy of the rewards of bad habits, self-indulgence, and immediate gratification. We are witnessing these very things everyday and it is leading us into a dark abyss. I think it’s time we all “wised up”!