Friday, November 29, 2013

Hunter-Gatherer


Let’s talk about materialism. Humans, woman especially, like to have things. This is not because we are selfish, shallow creatures, ruined by the conveniences brought on (at the root of things) by the Industrial Revolution. Our desire to accumulate goes back to our very ancient origins as hunter-gatherers. If your next meal hinges on picking up the right plant or fruit, you’ll naturally want to maximize your chances of eating by maximizing the amount of things you gather. Collect now, sort out the details later. 


Follow the timeline down to modern day. The hardest thing most people living in first world countries have to do to eat is get off the couch. Furthermore, we can acquire just about anything we might desire—provided we have the money to do so. And, to the surprise of none, humans like being able to easily collect stuff, and so collect more and more of it each year. Our instincts are satisfied. Or are they? Some people become hoarders…slaves to the items they accumulate. They’ve mastered the "collect now" side of things, but forgotten to sort out the details. 

This leads us to minimalism. The desire to carefully curate your material possessions to an elegant bare minimum. By minimizing physical clutter, you can, perhaps, minimize your mental clutter. 

Both sides have their appeal. It is nice to own things, to feel financially secure enough to go beyond fulfilling your basic necessities. It is also nice to have that money to spend on experiences, to save for the future and for security. So where do I fall?

I often find myself in the middle of a wistful search of beautiful online boutiques. Then I recall that, first of all, I have very little money to spend, and second, the money I do have is spoken for. So, I am certainly not a hoarder. However, I find minimalism a little too austere. I am an artist at the core of things, and I draw inspiration from my surroundings. The more colorful, and detailed my surroundings the better. 

So a compromise is in order. I would be lying to say I have somehow risen above an ancient, genetic instinct. Instead, I treasure small, beautiful things. A colorful scarf I can wear again and again. A small painting from an artist I admire. A cup of gelato…because gelato. I am not particularly ashamed of my purchasing habits, because shame is tied to guilt. Humans, women in particular, are susceptible to nearly debilitating feelings of guilt in everyday life. 

Women feel guilty for taking time for themselves. 

For saying no.

For being educated. 

For being happy.

That is wrong.

I do not mean to say that all women experience this, or that men are conscience-free.  I can simply say that as a woman, I’ve experienced these feelings more often than is healthy. These thoughts are often brought on by outside sources telling me what I should or shouldn’t be doing. In particular, I should be a stylish, gorgeous woman who updates her wardrobe every season. However, I should also be a smart woman, with a well-paying job, who saves her money for better things. So what does this guilt have to do with material possessions? Everything. I didn’t make that connection until I was writing this. Guilt over money is guilt over happiness. Money that buys you things that make you happy. Money that you never spend that keeps you from starving… that would make anyone happy. 

So I am making my stand. It is wrong to feel guilty about being happy. If something small and beautiful makes me happy, I will not feel guilty for the money spent to keep it close to me. I will not begrudge others better off than me the ability to buy a new wardrobe each season. I will not look on baffled at people who choose to clip coupons religiously, and find clever ways to reuse toilet paper rolls and twist ties. I acknowledge and embrace that the desire for things is an urge almost as old as humanity, and that it is not wrong to gain some happiness through possession. 


This stand also means something for this blog. It means I will share the objects, sometimes available for purchase, sometimes not, that make me happy. That will not negate my intelligence, nor the value of other things I write. Embracing happiness, in all its forms, is encouraged here. 

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