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Have you ever been to Times Square? Standing there, pinballing in the depths of crowds, all going in eight different directions, looking up at the electronic lights and all those big names, big brands, big acts, the new Broadway play, this year’s Cadillac Escalade, the archways of McDonald’s…always moving, always go, go, go, high energy, sweet promises and endless lies. It makes you feel pretty damned small.
Think about what Times Square really is. It is a 24-hour advertisement that evokes the wonder of the world in the form of neon billboards and scrolling text. Every building and every sign seem to have their own pulse without a soul like you or me. And if you keep looking up at what’s around you, at all that LED energy swirling and flashing all around, your neck will start to ache, your head will begin to hurt, and you’ll probably start to lose yourself a little bit in the dream being produced, just for you.
It’s the marketing hub of the world. It has you hypnotized.
Keep turning your head to each and every key to happiness spread across those buildings, whip yourself around, feel like your floating in air, purely in a mental state of captivation, separated from your body. Let your attention span slip and keep spinning, taking it all in, so only the surface registers. Get lost in the whimsy of this wonderland, hear the ringing in your ears, lose perception of the people around you.
You’ve let the heartbeat of this marketing mecca become your own, the makeup of your bones, the tendons and muscle fibers throughout your body, until you are completely implanted by electric messages. It fucks up your nervous system. Your implicit memory surrenders to fantasies laid out before you. And maybe you resent these fantasies, because you want them, and you know you probably can’t afford them.
Uh oh, now you’re on the hunt, looking at more electric screens for things and stuff and crap and whatnot, the jealous wanting you saw in the big city of success got you infected. The aching begins, you’ve been rewired to believe the lie. Times Square isn’t the only place for preachers of the religion of things. The commercials on your TV, the ads on your phone, the pressures from society that crush your dreams and try to build them up again from plastic.
You can have all your answers for the right price. Happiness is only x-amount away. You’re now weak-minded and feeble, and you feel like you need to augment yourself with the newest gadgets, wear the hippest clothes and catch up on the show just everyone’s talking about right now. It’s safe, it’s structured, but now your life has gone missing and when you finally find it, you’re near the end of it, and you’re going to have a moment of immense dread and sudden realization, like you’re being born a second time; you’re going to think, “Oh my God, what the hell happened.” This is a neurotic example of what I’m talking about.
The fallacy of materialism is that happiness is derived from material possession.
This belief pushes us to wear ourselves out at (often) draining jobs to afford stuff, being tricked into that collective belief that what’s being advertised to us exists for our well-being. But this belief only turns our friends into competitors, our emotions into liabilities, and everything into a commodity. Your life is suddenly depleting.
It’s not only Times Square, but the entire system of materialism, that makes you feel small. And if you’ve begun feeling this way, like you’re trapped on an alien planet with the wrong values and the wrong language, don’t fret too much. It’s possible to escape this madness, and I’m not talking about the Smith & Wesson retirement plan. Right now, you can start finding your way out of this maze, and I’ll fill you in on how I personally escaped the mindset of a helpless consumer.
Looking into your phone and constantly browsing store shelves can cut your attention span down the middle, but by simply reading a book, your mind will recover from the schizoid behavior it’s been exhibiting.
Read any book you want, it doesn’t really matter when you start making reading a habit. All that matters in the beginning is that you complete a long-term activity that stimulates the mind in a challenging way. You’ll come to find your ability to focus becomes stronger, and you’ll feel more in tune with your surroundings.
By being exposed to the different points of view of the authors you read, the social plan of your life will, in a way, level out, and you’ll develop a respect and admiration for people and knowledge.
That’s one thing a lot of people have mistaken in their lives, that things are more important than people. And that is simply not true.
Reading pretty much any book, be it fiction, biography, philosophy or history, will help you gain new perspectives, knowledge and an appreciation for life that is not focused on the fleeting gratification found in material possessions.
Get away from the hydrocarbon in the air. The smog can wait for you back home. The bleeding lights and sounds of exhaust will have to hold on a second. Go out to the mountains or the fields or the desert canyons that are just out of reach of civilization. In nature, you begin to appreciate the solitude, the subtle movements of the earth, the unbiased presence of your surroundings.
You might start questioning the meaning of life with all that peace and quiet out there, but you’ll come to realize the futility of this question because it’s like asking what’s the point of nature. Nature simply is. As is life. You can’t derive purpose in the natural environment. Everything else in our lives are driven by some sort of motivation, trying to spin the objective truth into a subjective view.
But nature is the objective truth. And when you realize all of this, you’ll develop a deep gratitude for your own existence, and little things like drinking a glass of water or sitting in a wicker chair become great pleasures that you hold in deep regard. A special quality gets woven into everything from that point on. You’ll realize that the significance of your own existence is of the exact same value of everything that exists in nature; nothing is any more special than anything else.
No matter what kind of car you drive, what sort of clothes you wear or how big your house is, it’s really just as important as a blade of grass or an insect buzzing over an animal carcass.
This might seem like a frightening realization if you come to it; but trust me, it provides you a peace like you’ve never felt before. You are not special, and that is okay. Back in civilization, there are expectations and judgements awaiting you, but out in the wild, everything is indifferent to you, and you’ll come to greatly appreciate that. It opens the mind to the opportunity of happiness without possession or ownership.
First off, dedicate three to five days a week to exercise. This enforces dedication and commitment, which will zap you out of the hazy funk that the hunt for material goods has put you in. Become stronger, mentally as well as physically. Push yourself to reach the initial goal of simply exercising during the days you’ve assigned yourself, and then take it a step further.
All this is about is self-improvement, setting goals and reaching them, either to better your health, or just for the sake of reaching the goals themselves. I’m going to do three sets of this, five sets of that, I’m going to run this many miles. If you haven’t exercised much (or at all) up to this point, you’ll be starting out pretty low. Don’t be deterred or embarrassed, this is natural the first few times around. But again, remember that this is all about you, for you.
But this doesn’t mean you have to go at it alone. Exercising – going to the gym , going outside on hikes, jogging, whatever – with a friend or two can make the strain of exertion all the more bearable and, hell, even enjoyable. Still, it’s not a competition, but the mere presence and encouragement you and your friends will share will help all of you push each other to your very limits. It can be easy to start slacking when nobody’s following right alongside you, but with a watchful eye, a friend can get your ass back in gear if you’re lagging, and vice versa. Yeah it might hurt, but it’ll actually be a pretty cool bonding experience, seeing how far you can go as a team. Just make sure the friends you exercise with are in for the long haul as well, and aren’t there just to stand around and twiddle their thumbs.
Keep exercising, slowly build up strength, and you’ll actually start to enjoy it. It will become a part of your daily routine, totally natural after about a month. Exercise pushes both your body – testing your strength, going the distance, until your breath gives out – and the mind – building that commitment, no matter how exhausted you might be or whatever excuses you might have not to go.
Whenever you buy something you don’t absolutely need, you lose a part of yourself; that part gets transferred into that thing you bought, as you hope that thing is a better, clearer representation of yourself than your own being.
You begin relearning who you are as a human being, it motivates you to pursue other ventures that better yourself instead of focusing on the pursuit of material possessions.
Have you ever half-heartedly thought that it might be cool to learn how to draw? Speak semi-fluently in another language? Play an instrument? Design websites? Pretty much any skill that requires hours of study and practice, but you’re just not inclined to take that step forward?
You might feel pretty comfortable with yourself in your current state, with all the things you own; it’s okay, I can just lie on my nylon couch and binge Netflix on my 56” flatscreen while downing some DiGiorno’s pizza and Coke Zero. That’s called paralysis, my friend. Your body and your mind have surrendered and now lie dormant on that couch. But you have to get those neurons running again.
Take that dim fantasy of yours and make it a reality; pick up a guitar, take a coding course online, dedicate an hour or two a day to the kinda-cool idea you have. Invest in something immaterial, yourself, and go as far as you can. It will open up new paths of interests for you, and you’ll become a more skilled and interesting person. Your confidence will soar, regardless of what you own, because it’s not about that—it’s about the effort put into bettering yourself.
Test and disappoint yourself. Fail, then fail again. But keep pushing through every time, and then, suddenly, you’ll find you’re capable of so much more than you thought possible.
But stay committed. Whichever road you go down will be tough, but if you stick it out, you’ll find yourself living a much more fulfilling life than you otherwise would have.
I hope you’ve realized that a meaningful life can be lived on very little. Only the bare necessities for reaching your goals, and nothing else. So if the weather’s nice, go outside. Smell the roses. Be with your family. Get the blood flowing. Follow your intuition and pursue your dreams. You’ve looked at screens enough today.
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