The Lie of Stuff

I’ve been reading the blog of No Impact Man for at least the last six months, and it’s been fascinating. Essentially it was a year long experiment in a man, his wife and toddler attempting to have zero environmental impact for a year. They learned a lot about happiness and the American way of life along the way and have some great insights. Their experiment just ended and they’re busy sticking their toes back in the water of popular culture again to see what’s there. Here’s an excerpt from their first disappointing foray out to the movies:

You know what it is? We never missed movies, per se. We never missed stuff. But there was still some kind of pull, and here’s what it was: wanting to have what other people around us had, wanting to do what they did, wanting to be where they were. In other words, it was, more or less, social anxiety.

If we get to do the things that other people do and have the things that other people have, that means we’re as loveable as everyone else. If we go the places they go, then we’re as cool and, therefore, again, loveable. Consumption has become a surrogate for being loved.

Instead of going and spending time with people we buy things or show up places like movies because the culture has sold us a bill of goods that says that this is what will make people love us.

How sad. So many of us are a bit lonely and need more human contact. We think the way to get it is to buy things. But really, if we want to be loved, what we we need is living rooms full of people instead of closets full of stuff. We need community. Isn’t that an important point? We could be happy without the stuff and without wrecking the planet. We just need to hang out more.

Read More: No Impact reentry and the lie of stuff

And if you want to read something beautiful, read his entry on entertaining their daughter without TV.

6 thoughts on “The Lie of Stuff

  1. matt…you’re great!
    thank you so much for writing and researching as much as you do. you truly are a resource for me. this website you are reading is fantasticly, exactly what i need to be reading. as we approach parenthood we are challenged and re-challenged over and again on how we will raise this little one. will we use diapers? how will we pay for the laundry? will we drive? will we bottle feed? just wait! it’s gonna happen to you and the questions never stop. so many choices to answer as to how you want to bring a new person into the world. have you ever thought about it?

    cheers! see you this weekend! yay!

  2. Maria: glad you’re finding it useful, now I can justify all of my time-wasting online. ;) Looking forward to seeing you!

  3. I read no-impact man’s stuff too and also think it’s inspiring. I’m not a tv addict, but I didn’t have my laptop for a few days and I’ve discovered that I’m a computer addict.
    Maybe I should go play with friends…
    Thanks for your insights Matt, they’re awesome.

  4. great post.

    i also really love the “entertaining isabella without tv” post.

    i can’t imagine how dull my childhood would have been if i had spent it in front of the tv.

    tv-parenting is a recipe for suffocating a child’s creativity and turning him/her into another passive consumer.

  5. i too love the research you’ve done to come up with this and many other posts, thanks.

    the part that struck me was in the first sentence, “You know what it is? We never missed movies, per se. We never missed stuff. But there was still some kind of pull, and here’s what it was: wanting to have what other people around us had.”

    that’s it, the core is not the stuff “per se”, but it is that human drive to follow the crowd, to be included (no matter the subject or means of inclusion), it is a heart issue in both the systemic and personal ways. so strategies aimed at dismantling materialism are perhaps only sufficient if they incorporate the understanding that the ‘stuff’ is not the sickness, it is the medication.

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