Doing, Not Having

Via Brian Buck comes this link to an article that says people get more satisfaction by doing things than by having things. Interesting stuff, especially considering the overwhelming importance we place on owning things in this culture. I’ve grown terribly weary of these materialistic TV commercials (yes, I know they are as old as the medium but they are still annoyning) where someone’s satisfaction with life and/or their standing in the neighborhood is solely dependent on owning the gizzwhickey currently being hawked. The Kia ads are particularly heinous, where people sit around and try to prove how much better they are based on the amenities of their vehicles. Anything that involves several guys standing around discussing the merits of their posessions is a commercial that will bug me.

I am by nature kind of a spendthrift, but over a decade of work by my wife has taught me the value of thriftiness. I frequently see my peers leveraged to the hilt buying new computers and new cars and plasma TVs, yet working jobs they hate because they can’t afford to quit. My inclination is always to want the toy too, but I now admit that having breathing room in life is more important. That’s why I’m driving a 1990 Honda Civic with no particular intentions to replace it unless it falls apart on the side of the road. I’d rather retire a few years earlier than have a nicer car now. I’m actually kind of obsessed with the “retirement line”. I see windfalls of money in two buckets: enough to cross the line or not. It’s an important distinction to me, accruing enough wealth that the proceeds will earn enough to live on. Good gravy would I like to be there! The value of freedom, to do what I want and when, is the shining beacon I always am trying to reach. If I hit that point, I’d keep doing similar work to what I do today, and I probably would be earning some money for it, but it wouldn’t be because I have to but because I want to. That’s the American dream to me.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father.