Allow me to say this once and for all. As a self-respecting, tree-hugging, dirt-worshipping, filthy hippie, few things in the world are more annoying to me than the self-righteous, spiritually smug, self-styled gurus who eschew materialism, sanctimoniously sneering at those who stockpile stuff — even more than people who abuse alliteration ad nauseam.
What I propose: that loving my stuff makes me a better person, morally, ethically, ecologically and perhaps even spiritually. People who love their stuff wear jeans until they are 90 percent holes and patches, know how their bikes work and ride them for years, have one good cast iron frying pan that lasts 100 years and can change the oil in their own cars.
What’s more, they are willing to put their money where their mouth is, buying one expensive but high quality item instead of multiple disposable items. They save tons of cash as opposed to consumerists with their fetishes for plastic-wrapped newness.
Indeed, consumerism, this “buy-buy-buy” mentality that is the hallmark of American decadence, is a completely separate issue from materialism. Materialism, outside the philosophy classrooms of Main Hall, is a love of things, pure and simple. Consumerism is a love of the act of accumulating things, the rat-like instinct in all of us.
Materialism, when disassociated from the drive to buy ever more and more, can be a beautiful, positive force, enriching our relationships with the stuff we choose to surround ourselves with.
I see materialism as the ultimate antidote to the ailment of consumerism, a problem potentially exacerbated by the spiritual elite who carelessly go through possessions without ever becoming attached to them. This is not to say that all Buddhists/aspiring-ascetics do this, but such a philosophy can lend itself to a wasteful lifestyle quite easily when watered down into everyday American life.
What are the advantages of this lifestyle? Self-sufficiency. Applying a materialist ethic to your life affects the way you interact with your whole world — a fact I learned remarkably fast when I moved into Greenfire House. Having a house, not just a dorm, that I could become passionately attached to and love for every last physical detail, was a wonderful blessing.
With a house as old as Sabin house, this entailed quickly learning the inner workings of — and how to fix — everything from toilets to blown fuses, to broken windows: valuable life skills for the day when I can no longer wait for Physical Plant to drive over and fix it in the morning.
Also, bat trapping. My highly materialist love of Sabin has taught me a lot about living with bats.
A less wasteful lifestyle, sufficient to give you total ecological-judgment rights over all the consumerist fools out there, is another fantastic advantage to whole-hog materialism. The more one is emotionally/sentimentally attached to something, the less likely one is to throw it in a landfill.
Why opt for disposable razors when you could invest in a quality product that could depilate your face, legs and whatever else for millennia? We can increasingly enjoy having fewer things; why have four cheap plastic water bottles when you could have one stainless steel thermos that will last a lifetime?
Last but not least, loving your stuff results in your stuff loving you. Taking care of things, repairing them so they last longer, can create special emotional bonds, memories and sentimental associations.
Who doesn’t love that one rip in their jeans because they got it while climbing over a fence in an incredibly James-Bond-esque fashion that one night? What bike won’t perform better, jam less, coast more smoothly when oiled and greased with loving care? What blanket is better for lulling you to sleep than one you once cuddled under with your hubby while watching shooting stars?
In conclusion, I urge you to take a good look at the stuff you’ve surrounded yourself with in your cubby-hole of a dorm room. Do you love it? Will it last for longer than the duration of your time at Lawrence before breaking?
Is it worth your time, money and energy to repair if it ever breaks? Use this criteria for buying any new item, and you too can sneer at the plebeian consumerist masses, all while deriving more smug satisfaction from your own life and possessions than they ever dreamed of.