As a teen, along with my mates, I believed that a car would bring me happiness. We argued as to which car would bring the most pleasure – Ford or Holden – I preferred Ford. In reality none of us could afford such high-end luxuries and we had to settle for old, problematic English vehicles, Morris, Austin, Vauxhall etc.. In my 40’s I began hearing that BMW’s were the cars – a fantasy for most but for the fortunate few, a reality. Working in St Ives, Sydney we saw plenty of Mercs and Jags. Then we came to St Heliers, where BMW’s, Merc’s, Porches and Audis are common place. Is this car heaven? Not at all! Pre-Christmas I saw even more exotic cars prowling our village. Maserati’s and Lamborghinis don’t roar, they kind of crackle – but they still can’t exceed 60k around Auckland. I googled expensive cars. The cars I had seen are only in the mid-range price bracket. There are many vehicles that sell at $3million up.
There is no doubt that the prospect of ‘more’ sells. On our Brisbane holiday, I had time to read. I picked up a special-edition magazine aimed at women (published by the Australian Woman’s Weekly) with guides for better health and how to get more out of life. Two articles caught my eye. One which promised perfect skin at any age. The solution recommended was a number of potions which together would cost $600+. There was no mention of how long these little jars would last. The second article was on the subject of ‘Getting more out of life by attracting love” (in fact – a lover). Apparently, this search for more love will be enhanced by strategically placing around your living quarters crystals (the article nominates the types) and Chinese hu shen fu symbols. Other recommendations were painting your bedroom door red, and buying two crystal wine glasses and having them on prominent display.
The search for ‘more’ has a negative impact on our youth. I remember a public relations officer from the Drug Squad talking to a men’s group about this. He said that our culture suggested to parents that their children were only happy when they were excited. This leads to rooms full of the latest toys and devices and outings to events where there is a lot of screaming. Children raised like this grow into teens who think that they are only truly alive when they are having an adrenalin rush. Bungy jumps and white water rafting and other thrill pursuits can provide this intense living-on-the-edge feeling which they interpret as being really alive. But these activities are only occasional. Our youth are left wondering how can we find this aliveness in the rest of life? The lecturer told us that in the early stages of use, chemicals/ drugs provide amazing adrenalin rushes and highs. Then it becomes an easy progression. Young people assume, “To get ‘more’ out of life I need these substances”.
I see that 2017 medical predictions are that hi-tech advances will further extend life in the affluent west. But what if life is miserable? Such persons need a new lease of life. I suspect they are hoping for ‘more’ of something. Certainly, I know of couples who want ‘more’ out of their marriage.
However, I believe that the notion that ‘more’ is key to happiness and
fulfillment is a misguided concept. The happiness ‘more’ promises is a mirage.
For centuries, many mystics and spiritual leaders have taught that ‘less is best’. Buddha (500BC) being the best known of these. In our own day the hugely influential teacher, Eckhart Tolle urges non-attachment to things and acceptance of life as it is. In the thirties Maria Montessori was urging parents to help their children find peace in quiet spaces and enjoyments in simple things.
And for me, most importantly, there is the example and life of Jesus. The scriptures say he owned only one garment and during the years he taught he was homeless. And yet he said he had come to bring joy, full and overflowing, in fact life abundant. He said that this could be achieved by following him and by loving one another, by ignoring religious precepts, by welcoming strangers, by serving others and being generous to a degree that defied rationality.
What if a group committed themselves to the ‘less is best’ principle? Then what would life look like? They would certainly not allow ‘more’ to shape their priorities. I am not suggesting that they turn away from the importance of value, design and durability. The primary focus would be on the beauty and challenge of the present and enabling the potential of the persons around them. How would it work with children and teens? Lectures and advice generally fail. I think it could only be communicated by example. Our children and teens may be more receptive than we think. They all know we are all facing troubling times. They are familiar with images of destruction. The media, their computer games and their school classes confront them with end-of-the-world scenarios. To see us doing something positive and embracing ‘less is best’ living could inspire them. Anyway, it’s worth a try.
And as for stale marriages, instead of couples waiting for the new ‘big thing’ or some wonderful new person to come into their life, they could examine afresh their marriage partner. Look at this person with fresh eyes. This could lead discoveries of qualities they had overlooked and strengths that had been suppressed. Not an easy thing to do but I am sure it would be worth the effort.
Here is a quote that has influenced me for years. The author, Albert Schweitzer was an outstanding theologian, scientist and musician. Writing in the early 1900’s his writing still inspire many.
“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but I do know this. None of you will be truly happy until you find a way to serve.”
Here he is talking about giving away. Right on. Less is more!
Post Script: On reflection, the car I have loved more than any other is a tiny. beaten up, under powered, Nissan March. It was given to me and after five years I have given it away. However, the current owner allows me to borrow it frequently enabling me to tootle around in absolute motoring bliss.