Monday, March 24, 2008

Yesterday I went through my notes and made a lot of headway with my note cards. There’s still a lot I haven’t even gotten down into my notes yet. When I look at all the headings I have, it still doesn’t feel like I’ve quite gotten into the meat of the matter.

My main thesis is that voluntary simplicity (and other movements such as alternative healing) are cutting-edge movements leading us into a new post-consumer paradigm. It’s not a counter-cultural fringe movement--it is the way of the future if we’re to survive. And while many parts of the world are still just coming on board to the western model of consumption, it’s imperative that we move society on to the next paradigm as rapidly as possible. Americans especially can make a huge difference since our consumption habits are so extreme.

And I want to talk about human potential. Simplicity is not about austerity, it’s about the richness of life. Opening up to the richness and nuance in life opens up channels to our own genius. Once that happens all kinds of miraculous, synergistic things could happen that we can’t even envision from where we are now.

Also, yesterday I went off on a new tangent in my thinking. I had copied down somewhere in my notes a quote about studies that have been done on the connection between materialism and various measures of psychological health. They found that people (across all age, income, and gender variables and across nations) who had a greater orientation towards materialism scored lower on measures of self actualization, vitality, self esteem and community affiliation. They had more physical complaints and higher rates of depression and anxiety. They were less likely to experience happy emotions, more likely to experience anger and unhappiness. The list goes on….

It reminded me of my college term paper on internal versus external locus of control. I remember uncovering paper after paper on the negative effects of having an external locus of control, very similar to the list in the above paragraph.

I should go into the library at CU and see if there any papers linking a materialistic orientation with an external locus of control, because I suspect there is an extremely strong correlation.

This got me thinking about Ken Wilber’s theories about human evolution and how as a society we are at an adolescent stage in our evolution. And among all the age groups who is most likely to have an external locus of control—adolescents! Adolescents are developing their egos and their independence, they want to impress and show off. They need validation and approval from their peers. They like to have cool things because cool things make you somebody. Popularity matters. Money matters. Stuff matters.

Doesn’t that all sound like American society as a whole? Of course society is made up of individuals, so does that mean most Americans’ development somehow was arrested at the adolescent stage? Um, yeah, I think so. The structure of our society is not conducive to post-adolescence. Healthy adulthood is not modeled. Healthy adulthood is equivalent to a post-consumer paradigm. Shifting to that is a radical move!

We idolize the rich and famous, not valuing our own talents and unique abilities. To be a singer, you have to be the cream of the crop, which means a bland homogenized consensus of what a singer should be. We used to all raise our voices in song, millions of wonderful, diverse, quirky voices. But now in our society 99.99 percent of us don’t pass muster. Could there be a Woody Guthrie today?

We’ve created experts and specialists, people “out there” directing us, telling us what we should and shouldn’t do. Doing our thinking for us. By turning to the experts, we absolve ourselves of responsibility, never needing to do our own original thinking.

Builders put out only monstrous houses. We assume there must be some consensus that that’s what we need. At any rate, we go right along with it. Nobody steps up to say, Hey, wait a minute, I never said I wanted a big house, why is it so hard to find a small house?

Advertising brainwashes us, creating artificial needs. We rely on those external cues, finding it virtually impossible to turn quietly inward to assess our true needs. It’s almost impossible to turn off the stream of outside influences.

Maturing into the post-consumer paradigm means among other things becoming inner-directed, in spite of society. It’s recognizing that we live in an immature society, but that we can choose to be the first adults.

If the earth can survive our adolescence, imagine all that could possibly lie ahead for us. A world filled with adults. A society functioning from maturity.

I’m still in the process of maturing myself. I’m still finding ways I let external factors influence what should be my own pure decisions. I really love this new clarity I have with John, and how clear I am with myself that I’m not going to get involved in any other relationships at least as long as I’m here in Colorado. It has made it clear to me that even recently I’ve been making decisions based at least in part on what other people might think. The no-deodorant and no-shampoo experiment would never have come about if I were in a relationship, that’s for sure.

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