Thursday, December 25, 2008

WANT Issue 1, Vol. 1 Winter 2009

Buddhists believe that want is the cause of suffering. If this is the case, my childhood was filled with much misery. When I was younger, I wanted a lot. Unfortunately for me, my father was cheap, so my suffering was rarely relieved. He believed that there was a difference between “want” and “need”, but this distinction was lost on me. While I never went without things I needed (proper health care, food, clothing, shelter, adequate sleep) I missed out on things I wanted (trendy clothes, newest toy, my own phone in my own room with my own number).

One day, I saw something I wanted. Bad. Bad enough to count it as a need. So I told my dad, but instead of our usual sing-song discussion duet (“please, dad, please” “no, you don’t need it” “please, dad, please” “no, you don’t need it”) he threw something new in. I whined “Dad, I really, really want it” and he said “It’s good to want... it builds character.”

Since character seemed a poor substitute for the treasure I can no longer recall, I was not satisfied with this response. But, since my nine-year-old self didn’t know exactly what character was, I couldn’t really argue that point, so instead, I stood there, befuddled and suffering from all that want. (Apparently, I may have had a self-esteem issue. See this report from Treehuggers Happy Kids Want Less Stuff ”)

Want is intentionally generated all around us. It’s subtle or not. It’s in advertisements that scare you into thinking you are not properly prepared for something catastrophic. It’s in magazines that tell you that to truly belong, you must: “eat here, wear this, get some plastic surgery and cosmetic dentistry and a second home and decorate it as lavishly as the first one and drive this and go here and see and be seen there and spend more and spend more and spend even more.”

This wheel of want never stops spinning, you never have enough, and just when you get that last thing, there is another vacation to be had, boat to own, treat to pamper yourself with, perfect gift, must-have bag, this season’s look. Yet no matter how much you accumulate, you never fully alleviate your suffering. Because you still want and will always want. (For an entertaining and informative view of how the cycle of want is a key component to the cycle of consumption, see this amazing short “Story Of Stuff”)

Rather than stopping this cycle, some people will give up what they need for what they want. This is the hardest thing of all, because eventually need will win, it always does. Need can only be postponed, not denied. Want creates so much suffering once need comes back to collect what’s past due. (See the ad where Lending Tree actually tries to capitalize on this)

There has always been a small but dedicated crowd, wanting to shift this paradigm. Now it appears they are actually doing it. Recently, in an article in Oprah Magazine, the subject was this growing discontent with all of this forced consumerism, and what it meant to our happiness and ourselves. Does this mean “voluntary simplicity” is now fashionable?

In this, our maiden issue into the voyage of thoughtful consumption, we address want in all its forms: why we want, what we want, and how to stop wanting so much, maybe even build some character in the process. It might even be fun.

  • 10 Ways to Reduce Want Ideas for getting rid of that nagging feeling that something is missing in your life.
  • How to Want Less (from Motley Fool) The best suggestions from the Motley Fool blog.
  • Free Joy (from our buddies at Dollar Stretchers)Things you can do for free that might bring you that feeling of contentedness, that will replace the feeling of want.
  • 50 Ways To Reduce Waste It’s amazing what you can do to reduce waste, the sad leftovers of want.
  • When It's NOT Okay To Be Cheap Distinction between “cheap” and “miserly”. Because I am not trying to bring back the word “miserly”. It's just cheap+mean.

I haven’t yet come up with a graceful way to lead into the three standing features (review of thrift shops, crafty thing to try, cheap daily tip) but here goes...


Michelle said...

I want so much... not so much clothes or makeup or handbags. But I want furniture right now.

M. said...

It's good to want. It builds character! Hahahaha I have always wanted to tell someone else that.