Possessions don't make you happy?

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Possessions don't make you happy?

Postby Halgarr on Mon May 19, 2008 6:27 pm

I never understood this idea. Without clothes to wear or food to eat, I'd be miserable.
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Re: Possessions don't make you happy?

Postby mouse on Tue May 20, 2008 10:56 am

no, it's more the idea that if you just get the designer clothes, the gourmet food, the big house, the fancy car, the top-of-the-line stereo equipment, the absolute latest gaming console, then you will be happy. or successful. or worthwhile in the eyes of others. you must have encountered people like that, who are all about what they own. and they end up having their lives controlled by those things - whether it be because they have to devote so much time to making the payments, or doing the upkeep, or whatever. they've lost the concept that things exist to serve some function - and that you don't _have_ to have something to serve every function. (i caught a bit of an infomercial, or something, the other day - about wedding presents. they were demonstrating this gadget that would chill a bottle of wine in 2 minutes or something. another "thing" that someone will spend money on, and someone will feel they absolutely _must_ have, or give - and it will clutter up the kitchen, and be used maybe twice a year. because honestly, how hard is it to plan a meal or an occasion far enough ahead (like, 2 hours) to stick a bottle of wine in the fridge?)

it's not owning things per se that causes problems, it's the value you put on them. if you are happy just being clothed, you are probably fine. if you feel you _must_ have certain clothes, that owning those particular clothes will make you happy - then you may have problems.
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Re: Possessions don't make you happy?

Postby AisA on Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:41 am

The Buddhist idea is not that possessions make you unhappy, but that attachment to possessions make you unhappy. If you understand that "all things are compound things subject to decay", then you realize that every external thing to which you attach value is only temporary and that your inner state of mind does not depend on it. This doesn't mean that you have to shave your head, wear a robe and drink yak butter tea while spinning a prayer wheel; in a practical sense, it just means that a person should realize that their happiness should not depend on external things.
As Dave Sim once commented, "the more things stay, the more they change the sane."
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Re: Possessions don't make you happy?

Postby Halgarr on Mon Jun 09, 2008 6:20 pm

True story: I started to reply to this post, and I discovered that the "g" key on my keyboard didn't work. I had to go out and buy a new one. My keyboard is a material thing, subject to decay, and it picked that moment to prove it.

I think that having my computer makes me happier than I would be if I didn't have it. I have no idea whether that means I'm "attached' to it in the way that Buddhists mean.

I don't understand how anyone can claim that one's happiness is not dependent on external things. A person with a comfortable home, enough to eat, friends and loved ones around him, and an interesting job might well be really happy. Take that person and put him alone in a prison cell with little food, no human contact, and nothing to do, and he'd be miserable.
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Re: Possessions don't make you happy?

Postby AisA on Tue Jun 10, 2008 3:38 am

Halgarr wrote:I don't understand how anyone can claim that one's happiness is not dependent on external things. A person with a comfortable home, enough to eat, friends and loved ones around him, and an interesting job might well be really happy. Take that person and put him alone in a prison cell with little food, no human contact, and nothing to do, and he'd be miserable.


Depends on the person, and you're using a bit of an extreme example there, aren't you? Let's try something a little more realistic: as an artist, my happiness depends on my ability to create. My favorite philosopher would say that is a conditon of existing as "man qua man". In that regard, I depend to a certain extent on my own computer, as that is my current medium of creation and communication. However, I was creating long before I had even heard of a personal computer, let alone the internet, bulletin boards, etc. If for some reason I suddenly found myself without a computer, I would still be able to create, using traditional tools (i.e. pen and paper) and showing the work to anyone who'd stand still long enough. Even, gods forbid, were I to find myself in a prison cell with little food and no human contact, I'd still find a way, supposing it were fingerpainting in my gruel or etching crude drawings into a dank wall with the sharpened end of a spoon. My point is that in knowing the conditions of my personal happiness, I could find a way to meet those conditions without dependence on any particular external objects. The objects I use are the means to an end, not to be confused with the ends themselves.
That being said, I am not a Buddhist, and there's only so far my Objectivist leanings will let me go in that direction. Personally, I think it is sufficient to have a concept of "enough"...to know when comfort becomes luxury becomes self-indulgence.
And to those who might say that my current work is little different from crude drawings etched into a dank wall with a sharpened spoon, all I can say is "TPPPPHHHHBBBBTTTT!!!!!"
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Re: Possessions don't make you happy?

Postby AisA on Tue Jun 10, 2008 5:32 am

Just as an interesting side note to this, I'm at this moment listening to "The Current" on CBC Radio. They're doing an interview with artist Dina Babbitt, who was an Auschwitz prisoner in WWII and helped herself and her mother survive largely by painting. It's a fascinating study in exactly what we're discussing here. Apparently the interview will later be available at http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent for anyone who's interested.
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