November 15, 2016

CULTURALLY SHOOK | I’m with Kanye – Materialism Makes Me Happy

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Photo Courtesy of Huffington Post


If you tell me you’re in pursuit of happiness, I’ll tell you you’re awfully misguided (@KidCudi, wyd?). Happiness itself is simply a concept—a crude abstraction, nebulous by nature. People say it exists. I say: pics or it didn’t happen. A journey to a more ambiguous abstraction there never was. It’s an end without a means. How can you pursue something intangible? If you can’t see or touch happiness, how do you know when you’re close to it? How can you pursue something if you don’t know where to look? You want directions. You need a completely enumerated, clearly worded guide to Happiness. Can you Google Map Happiness? Let x = happiness. Everyone knows that X is supposed to mark the spot. If only you possessed the treasure map for that conceptual treasure we call happiness.

It isn’t like looking for a needle in a haystack. It’s as if there are multiple haystacks—an entire barn filled with 18 karat golden straw, a veritable horse’s heaven!—and you’re drowning in it, you don’t know even know what you’re looking for. You feel powerless. You want to regain a sense of control over your life. Even the illusion of control would be nice. You just want to feel like you know what you’re doing.

Enter, your guardian angel: the capitalistic world of commerce, where dreams are quantifiable, goals are material, and all we are in pursuit of here is stuff—things, materials, objects galore! The aimless pursuit of happiness isn’t allowed here. There is an established path of guaranteed success to attaining the concrete nature of things. Everything is simpler here. You choose what you want—shoes, a new phone, a book. You pay the price, and, just like that, it’s yours. With happiness, it’s a different story. You might pay the price—you might put in excessive effort into realizing that goal—but you could easily end up empty-handed. You can’t touch happiness, but in just 3-5 business days, you can touch your new iPhone (if you just buy it…so buy it!).

Kanye said it best when he said that he “had a dream [he] could buy [his] way to heaven / When [he] awoke [he] spent that on a necklace.” Kanye gets it. Sure, it would be cool if you could put happiness—that amorphous blob that tastes like sunshine and smells like self-actualization—in your shopping cart, enter your credit card number, and find it delivered on your doorstep a few days later. But as of 2016, this is not yet possible.

So why reach for immaterial, conceptual pleasures when the material, physical ones are right in front of you, ready for the taking? I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to search for happiness. Instead, I’ll search for a new cozy blouson sleeve crew neck jumper dress. I’ll order it in size HAPPINESS, so it’ll fit the black hole-like void within me where, in a utopian world, happiness should reside.*

William James said that “A man’s Self is the sum total of all that he can call his.” If things are just extensions of ourselves, that means that the more I buy, the greater my “sum total” becomes—and the bigger I become. I grow with every transaction. Soon, I will become colossal—I will slide through the streets, a gargantuan, materialistic trash monster—Material Girl. Finally, I will be able to pursue happiness—it will not be able to escape my clutches.  

*Caution: It is possible that you will never find the perfectly sized object to fit your personal bodily void. Everyone is unique. I just got lucky! 🙂