Even though you will have material comforts and physical benefits to your life, I don’t want you to miss out on the mental aspect of what you are, and what you could be able to accomplish. I was trapped in the materialistic side of life for a very long time, because sometimes there is just no escaping it. The messages surrounding you are very strong. Society tells you what you should want, and that that’s how you’re supposed to find contentment. Yet the pleasures I derived from these pursuits, activities and values were always short-lived. Eventually I felt as if I was an empty shell of a human being, and powerless to do anything about it.
I’ve felt it many times (I’m not a very quick learner, unfortunately).
What I have discovered, among other things, is that I derive pleasure by achieving goals. The harder the goal is to attain, the sweeter the pleasure I experience when I have. This is why buying and owning things are such a fleeting pleasure. Since I invested so little of my emotions into the act of attaining a good, I retain very little satisfaction for long. The advertisements I see that promote the products are promises of inner peace and eternal satisfaction, or sexual reward, at times. In general, they result in short-lived joy and much disappointment. There are fictions all around you that are sold to you, not for your good, but that of others. When you are unable to identify them as such, you buy into the lies that trap you within that system. Your awareness and ability to dissect your surroundings are your filters for parsing what is truth, and what is propaganda.
As much as this book is for you, you must realize that the processes I’m describing are in here because I’ve lived them to various degrees. You will go through similar processes. I’m almost sure that there a lot more like me who go through life, not really knowing what it is that they want, but certain that it isn’t what is being sold to them. Since life is what you make of it, if you don’t know any alternative ways of thinking, you tend to believe what you are told, even though it might feel wrong. There are many others, who, like me, have been struggling for something to latch onto as being worthwhile ends for which to strive, I’m sure. For me, the ability to develop my mind has been the first step toward that process.
The spheres of human thoughts and emotions toward which you focus and in which you will invest your energies dictate the way you will live your reality. The areas in which you will invest your potential are what should concern you most. One of the first problems you’ll encounter after childhood is the inability to achieve true satisfaction. Don’t be so hard on yourself, it’s not a myth, and it’s not impossible. It just takes time and practice. When you are young, it’s actually quite easy to get it. The older you grow, though, the more it seems to slip away. To a certain degree, it’s like developing a tolerance to life.
It’s true, when you get no new experiences, the repetitions of the old ones get more and more boring. The trouble, you see, is internal, and not external. You will start looking for ways of breaking the monotony of your life by getting new ‘stuff’. You’ll notice, growing up, that advertisements everywhere will sell you excitement and novelty. You might even start believing that it is by surrounding yourself with more objects that you are finding new and exciting ways of living your life. If this was the case, though, you wouldn’t have to keep buying more objects.
You will get used to being told what to desire by others in your surroundings. Eventually, those societal values imposed on you might become all-encompassing and you’ll actually live them as if they were the end-all and be-all of your existence. The fact is that many of them are band-aids covering the true needs you have. Some people out there really do think they need to buy objects to be happy. They just don’t know otherwise, that’s all. They do it to fill that empty void they have, and by buying, they cure that desire for a little while. It comes back, over and over, of course, just like any addiction.
They have been inundated with information which has convinced them that this act is the one they can perpetrate to accomplish the fulfillment of their joy. They have no other basis for comparison and that is why they are indoctrinated into believing this is so. Of course, there are times when the object of desire is necessary, but in this case I am referring to the sole act of purchasing to feel actual joy. We are addicts, of a kind. We find joy mostly in what is exterior to us, because many of us cannot recreate this feeling within ourselves, and this is how we live our lives. We are constantly trying to prove our self-worth by exterior means. In a sense, this is normal. We are raised to look at others for opinions of ourselves, to normalize and regulate our behavior. This has somehow become the entire basis for our self-worth, though. We can no longer look upon our own lives without having to look towards the mirror that is our peers. We want to see if what is reflected is pretty enough to be worthwhile.
In this, as in everything else, there is no one to blame, but if you want to lead a life that isn’t dependent on pure cosmetics, then we should look at other options, shouldn’t we? You have a brain, and in that brain, you have almost unlimited space to put just about anything you might want to. Everything that you incorporate into that mind of yours stretches the limits of the possibilities you have, in every branch of human thought. You will never be bored if you have an active mind, and you will always have a pursuit at hand if you let your curiosity and ingenuity run wild.
The choice is between what is inside you or what is outside of you. One requires you to achieve the means to surround yourself with objects, and the other the patience to fill your head with thoughts. For a very long time, I picked the former. I can’t say I regret it, since that was my choice. I have changed my mind on the subject, though, and I can honestly say that I am, in my own opinion, a better person.
I understand, though, the dilemna people are faced with. It is far easier to buy things than to have the patience to achieve anything. That’s the trade-off, unfortunately. You either get what you want quickly and are bored with it just as fast, or take the time to get to know something worthwhile and enjoy it for the rest of your life. It’s not really a question of choosing one over the other, as much as how much you concentrate your energies to have one more than the other. You’ll always have “things”, and you’ll always have “thoughts”, but both take time and energy to get. The arena in which you invest more of your time and energy will either help your material progress or mental progress. Only you can choose what is more important to you. Both are important, but the emphasis is presently placed on acquiring material possessions. Now that you know this, you have a better chance of evaluating your priorities.
Imagine for a moment that you are in a house. Outside the house, there is a dome, covering it. There are no doors in the dome, and you can’t climb over it. It is opaque. The more you learn, the wider the dome gets, and begins to encircle the neighborhood. You can now walk around the neighborhood and discover things that you didn’t know existed before. Now that you see these new parts of the neighborhood, you can learn more, and the dome gets as big as the city you are in. Great! Now you can explore a whole city, to find what you’ve been missing out on. This makes the dome wider, and wider, until eventually it is as big as the entire Universe. That’s a big dome! Well, whatever is within that dome is your knowledge and imagination.
The dome is the limits to that knowledge. You can’t have this inner expansion if you buy things (except for books, of course), only if you learn things. The even more amazing thing is that it has no limit. It can go beyond the limits of the Universe, because there are things we dream up every day that defy logic. Your imagination is the limit, always. You can, of course, decide that knowledge is not for you. You can, most assuredly, stay inside your house, staring at the dome. You will wonder for the rest of your life what you could have known. That is entirely up to you. You might discover amazing things that you thought were impossible. You will discover horrible things that you will wish you did not know. That is a fact. If you deny the opportunity for knowledge, you will miss out on the wonderful because you are afraid of the dreadful. Humans have changed a lot over the years. There are gruesome things we, like any other animals, have perpetrated in the past. No one is perfect, but we are getting better, over all.
This is because we know more than we used to.