Friday, July 17, 2009

Materialism and Entitlement to Happiness

There is a sense that because we live in a time of plenty from a materialistic standpoint we are not entitled to be dissatisfied. That perspective itself has its roots in materialism because it assumes that material wealth and comfort are all one needs to be happy. Therefore, if a person's happiness is a function of material wealth and that person possesses material wealth, that person should necessarily be happy. As such, when that person is not happy under those circumstances something is necessarily wrong with that person.

At the same time, however, it has been my experience the jobs and life styles that "produce" material wealth are increasingly isolating, uninspiring and unsatisfying. And yet to feel unhappy in an uninspiring state that produces wealth in turn produces a state of cognitive dissonance because of the assumption that happiness and materialism are connected. The mind cannot exist in a state of cognitive dissonance and must search for a reason to bridge the gap. The classic example is walking into a dark room, flipping the switch but the light does not come on. Instantly, the mind must find a solution to make sense of this situation - is it the fuse, the light bulb, the wiring? Perhaps this switch does not control the light I originally thought it did.

In my estimation, the point is this, material wealth and entitlement to happiness are two separate phenomena and should be treated as such regardless of how powerfully the world seems to think they are connected. We (or at least I) have been programmed to think that this connection between happiness and materialism exists. But conversely, we have been programed to think that we are not entitled to be unhappy if we have material wealth and perhaps not entitled to be happy if we don't. My sense is that it would be liberating to sever this connection.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Sometimes I feel like I am missing out on life by not being able to live authentically and by subjecting myself to miserable experiences over and over again. Other times I feel like it is my journey to overcome this painful cycle. Not that the cycle is necessarily an integral part of the education process. Looking at this from the perspective that I am missing out is subjecting myself to more misery. Viewing the process as a journey takes a step back from the misery. It does not dispel the misery but it does lessen it somewhat.