Tuesday, December 22, 2015

People, Places, Experiences and Things

One hears a lot of criticism about how materialistic our society has become. How we care too much for "things" and not enough about people.

I suppose there is some truth in that. Especially, it seems, at this time of the year when one sees and hears about people being run off their feet shopping, becoming curt with one-another (or worse), losing sight, perhaps, of the quiet joys that the Christmas holiday once was said to have brought --that of  sharing with friends and family just a few simple gifts, along with much kindness, warmth and encouragement.

But where does the "balance" people often speak of between "people" and "things" reside? Is it to be found in a single way of viewing life? And what about the other joys that are to be found?

Some people, for instance, love to travel. -To experience new things, new places. Yet others (such as myself) generally find greater pleasure in quiet, largely solitary repose; in travels of the mind and spirit more than that of the physical self.

When my generation began maturing enough to finally let go of its youthful idealism it largely for a time latched onto a philosophy expressed in the bumper-sticker worthy statement "He who dies with the most toys wins." The emphasis there and then was totally on owning things.

A generation or two later saw that slogan replaced with another, equally bumper sticker worthy one: That each person should create a "bucket list" of all the places they want to see, and all the things they want to experience, and then check 'em off thinking that if everything is "checked" before they die they will have lived a rich, rewarding, worthwhile and happy, life.

Is one of the above ideas more worthy than the other? Or is there yet some other, perhaps similar, idea waiting in the wings that, when discovered and espoused, will finally be found to be the formulaic answer to true universal happiness?

My answer, based on experience, reading and observation, is no and no. -That the idea of there being one, right, "balance" for every one of us between the material, the experiential and the communal -- or even for any one of us at all times -- is simply incorrect. The greater truth is that life is a journey with many possible roads, some "right" for one, another "right" for another, and maybe both or neither right for any one one person at any one particular time.

I have traveled some, although not as widely as have others. I have been to Europe three times -- and none as a "get on and off the bus" tourist. No. On two of those multi-week trips I spent my time there, in several countries, with friends who knew the local cultures. My third European trip was a working vacation, in Italy, when I was writing and imaging for Ducati.

All were wonderful experiences. But none -- for me -- provided joy equal to what I have found sitting in my own library with a really good book, or in my music room with a guitar in my hand. Or even slowly strolling about my own property quietly with a camera.

I can also say that no money I have ever spent was spent as "well" (if hours of satisfaction and joy are used as the measuring stick) as that I have spent on cameras, on musical instruments, on stereo and video equipment, or for that matter, for a good many years, on Ducati motorcycles.

But isn't my saying the above evidence of me putting too much focus on things? Does it not suggest that I am -- gasp! -- a materialist?

Frankly I do not think such questions, bottom line, amount to anything.  No, to me the more important question is simply this: Have my choices made me, and others I care about, happier? Have they added joy and satisfaction to my/our lives?

A pile of unused "toys" left upon my passing will not have done so. Nor will my having put check marks on some once eagerly made list. .

"Things," "experiences," "friends and family,""creativity," the world of "ideas" - all of these are what make up life and living. And is it not that -- "living"  in the broadest possible sense -- what life is really all about?

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