benefit #10 – possessions do not equal joy

July 8, 2008

as a part of my job, i frequently take adults and students to third-world environments.  and i have taken enough trips over the years i can predict what the emotional response is going to be in the life of somebody who has never seen life outside of the established, consumer-driven, american culture where i live.

they will have three emotions at some point during the trip:

  1. they will marvel that people with so little can be so joyful.
  2. they will long to enjoy life as much as the people they meet.
  3. they will say that they are blessed to live in america and own so many possessions.

the reflective ones will connect the dots and realize the foolishness of their third statement as soon as they say it out loud.  others will repeat the same three emotions over and over again.

the truth is that “possessions” and “joy” are not equal.  this can be seen in the statistics (america ranks #1 in rate of depression) and this can be seen in the people we meet in the third-world countries (which leads to the emotion #1 and #2).

the unfortunate truth is that for so long americans have equated possessions with joy in life that even when the evidence is right in front of their face, we are blind to recognize it.  minimalism begins to conteract that belief structure.  we begin to live with less and find that joy does not leave our lives. 

it may even feed it.

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