AHEAD OF THE CURVE
I spent much of Saturday hanging out with Mr. and Mrs Dreyfus in their yard. Sitting there, doing nothing, watching the cats, catching up, spotting the female Cardinal, was so much fun..... so healing.
We also ate some fresh cucumbers that a neighbor had brought over because they had too many from their garden. Unlike in the city, the Dreyfuses did not have to spend big money at a Farmer's Market or join a CSA to get fresh, organic produce. People just brought it over, unasked (see photo above).
While sitting outside, we mused about how wonderful the simple life is - and what would happen if the rest of America started living that way; clearly, the economy would completely fall apart.
The next day the New York Times ran a big article by Stephanie Rosenbloom, about people who are living la vida simple, buying less and treasuring experiences over material goods.
Here's an excerpt:
“There’s been an emotional rebirth connected to acquiring things that’s really come out of this recession,” says Wendy Liebmann, chief executive of WSL Strategic Retail, a marketing consulting firm that works with manufacturers and retailers. “We hear people talking about the desire not to lose that — that connection, the moment, the family, the experience.”
Current research suggests that, unlike consumption of material goods, spending on leisure and services typically strengthens social bonds, which in turn helps amplify happiness. (Academics are already in broad agreement that there is a strong correlation between the quality of people’s relationships and their happiness; hence, anything that promotes stronger social bonds has a good chance of making us feel all warm and fuzzy.)
And the creation of complex, sophisticated relationships is a rare thing in the world. As Professor Dunn and her colleagues Daniel T. Gilbert and Timothy D. Wilson point out in their forthcoming paper, only termites, naked mole rats and certain insects like ants and bees construct social networks as complex as those of human beings. In that elite little club, humans are the only ones who shop....
....Another reason that scholars contend that experiences provide a bigger pop than things is that they can’t be absorbed in one gulp — it takes more time to adapt to them and engage with them than it does to put on a new leather jacket or turn on that shiny flat-screen TV.
“We buy a new house, we get accustomed to it,” says Professor Lyubomirsky, who studies what psychologists call “hedonic adaptation,” a phenomenon in which people quickly become used to changes, great or terrible, in order to maintain a stable level of happiness.
Over time, that means the buzz from a new purchase is pushed toward the emotional norm.
“We stop getting pleasure from it,” she says.
And then, of course, we buy new things.
Sounds to me like people are starting to do the real yoga (realizing that as soon as one fulfills a desire, another one appears - unless one learns to control the senses and the mind).
* * *
On Sunday I caught Jeremy Rifkin on the radio, discussing his latest book The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis. The show was riveting, and you can hear it here. Among other things, Rifkin mentioned in passing that America is focused on the accumulation of wealth, while Europeans value quality of life. We could learn a thing or two from them.
* * *
Sri Dharma Mittra says it best:
"Reduce your wants and lead a happy and contented life. Never hurt the feelings of others and be kind to all. Think of God as soon as you get up and when you go to bed."
I think the second sentence is one of the hardest practices there is.