Thursday, April 13, 2017

How Much Happier We Would Be!




One of the great lies told to us by our society is that acquiring more stuff, or the right stuff, or any stuff for that matter, will make us happy. None of us "believe" it, yet most of us live our lives in ways that disprove our disbelief. Every one of the great religions warns us of the danger or ultimate worthlessness of material stuff, as do the great philosophers and artists, yet most of us have collected and continue to collect stuff like it's going out of style . . . And it is going out of style: that's one of the many ways we convince ourselves that we need just this one more thing to be happy.

I recently wrote about children who experiment with hoarding things in the classroom, kids who collect piles of things, then guard them protectively. They have all the stuff, yet their faces always look miserable, and it's because they are miserable: the natural state of a hoarder is misery. I'm not claiming intimacy with any of them, but I've spent enough time in my life in the proximity four different billionaires, all of whom have come off as surly, suspicious, and tight-fisted, wary of all who approach them, proving to me that the hoarding of money is no different than the hoarding of anything else.

Our classroom hoarder stood out for me because most of the children I teach haven't yet unlearned the great wisdom that stuff can't make you happy. And the younger they are, they closer they are to this wisdom. Anyone who spends time with young children knows this is true, and many of us envy it, yet we nevertheless systematically go about teaching them our society's myths about stuff, indeed we can't help ourselves, and by the time they're ready to head off to elementary school most are already firmly in the mainstream of thinking that just this one more thing will make me happy.



I'm not writing this by way of boasting that I am somehow above it because I'm not. I still have clothing in my drawers that I'll never wear again, yet continue to buy more. I still have a television set in the back of a closet, although I haven't plugged it in for close to a decade. I still have crap in a storage locker that I visit, maybe, once a year. And even as I can see that the weight of those things makes me less happy, I continue to hoard them because I worry, I guess, that someday I might need them and then I'll sure be sorry, accepting real, current unhappiness over a purely theoretical happiness that my stuff might bring me at some point in the unknowable future.

I recently shared one of my favorite jokes here: "The difference between my phobias and yours is that mine make sense." The same could be said of stuff, although at least phobias are something I know I ought to be working to get rid of, whereas it seems I'm far more attached to my stuff than my fears because I tend to find it less easy to let go of the later than the former.

The subtitle for this blog is "Teaching and learning from preschoolers" and this is one of those areas in which our youngest citizens have everything to teach us and nothing to learn except misery. Young children use things until they're done with them, then let them go, usually simply dropping them to the ground and walking away. Most of the time as adults we find it frustrating because they are making a mess, but seriously, this should be inspiring stuff. What if we could do that with our stuff? How much happier we would be!



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