**** Please be sure to read the disclaimer at the end of this article ****
If you haven’t read Part 1 of this article, you can find it at http://andrewcaddle.com/wordpress/riding-on-the-back-of-the-wave-part-1/
In my own life, I don’t consider that I am lacking any of the material assets that most folks are giving up their lives to own. I have all of the usual gadgets … Fridge, Washer, TV, Stereo, computer, motor car and on and on! But there’s a difference between the things that I have and those that most people do. And its simply this. Almost nothing in my life comes to me new. I have spent very little time in big retail outlets in the past fifteen years.
My television set is a good example of how my life is. It came to me broken and was, according to its former owner, destined for landfill if no-one wanted it. It was advertised for free on the local Freecycle website. We aren’t talking about an aging CRT tellie here. Its a 100cm (40”) digital LCD job with stereo sound and all the bells and whistles! It actually took less than an hour and a couple of dollars worth of parts to repair it …. and it hasn’t missed a beat since. I have it attached to my computer …. a quad core beastie with 3 terabytes of disk storage …. I bought it for $350 years ago because it wasn’t working and the previous owner couldn’t be bothered with it. This setup is attached to a magnificent home theatre sound system that I bought second hand off Gumtree for a hundred dollars … the previous owner was ‘upgrading’. I have a camera …. a Canon digital SLR that is just superb. It isn’t the current model, of course. I bought it off Gumtree for $80 (delivered) because it was broken. I imported a couple of new parts from America (off Ebay … for half what I would have paid buying locally) and I think my all-up cost for my camera was $146. The same model is still bringing $400 second hand.
I’m not telling you about all this to boast, but because it illustrates the principles by which I live. ALL of the gadgets in my world are lacking a critical quality without which, most people today wouldn’t want to own them. My possessions are completely devoid of PRESTIGE. Prestige (the misguided notion that ‘things’ can be impressive and that, by extension, the person who possesses them is likewise impressive) ….. is the single greatest lie of consumerism. It has been accepted without question by the masses and there are people who go through an entire lifetime pursuing prestige. Some very wise person once wrote “We’d worry a whole lot less about what folks thought about us …. if we knew how rarely they do!” I think its a profound observation, worth thinking on.
So OK, the possessions that I’ve talked about don’t have the prestige factor. So what DO they have? Simply this. All of these things were acquired at a fraction of the cost of equivalent new items. All of them required effort and a little expense to recommission. But they all perform ALMOST as well as equivalent new items. The TV isn’t as huge as what folks are wanting now … and I guess that’s why no-one wanted it. My camera doesn’t have the massive resolution of the ones being offered now. My computer isn’t as blisteringly fast as the equivalent new model and my sound system is maybe not quite so big and loud as current models. BUT …. and just like most of the people at Maccas … its a big but! ……… The TV is as large as I need to enjoy the most amazing cinematic experiences, the computer is faster than I need to run any and all of the software that I use (and I’m a computer geek type … not a gamer) the sound system is too loud to be used at full volume in my office and the resolution of my camera is still higher than what I can display on ANY electronic monitor or print on any printer.
Most of what people are buying today … they simply don’t actually need. But the cherubs of consumerism … the advertising industry …. constantly assures us that we just can’t possibly live without the newest, biggest, loudest, highest resolution, gizmos. And even if you don’t need it … just think of the prestige. Your friends will be impressed and your enemies will be green with envy …. so obviously you will be a more worthwhile human being! Its an insane message but you hear it over and over again, every single day. And you probably don’t think about it.
So why do I think my way of doing things is the right way? Simply this. If my possessions perform as well as I need them to, almost as well as yours but I bought them for only a tenth of what you paid …. then I only need to earn 10% of what you do, to enjoy a similar level of material comfort. Assuming we are similarly employed, I will only have to work one day at some job I probably don’t enjoy …. for every ten days that you put in. And that means I get to do something I enjoy for the other nine days! This is a simplistic explanation, I know. But it does illustrate the principal that applies. If you are paying ten times as much as someone else, for almost the same items … and the only difference is a few minor improvements and an imagined ‘prestige’, then you really need to ask yourself honestly, what it is that you are paying for …. and what it is costing you to obtain it.
It isn’t just your money that might be being wasted. Its the time that it takes you to earn that money; time that could have been spend with your family, your friends, or in pursuing some activity that you enjoy.
I admit that lots of what I have, came to me in a non-functional state. And I do spend quite a lot of time, researching the information that I need to carry out a few repairs. And its even a bit scary in spots. You’d be amazed at how much electronics are crammed into a modern camera, for example. And there’s always that moment of doubt …. when you wonder if you are ever going to get a thing back together again! And of course, there are potential dangers in messing about in the innards of some devices. The electric shock that you can get from the flash capacitor in a camera can be dangerous. The amount of stored electricity inside a TV can be fatal. But if you are reasonably intelligent and take the time to learn what you need to know before you tackle these things, most of the dangers are easily avoided. I am no genius but the list of gadgets that I have successfully resurrected over the years is amazing. And I can’t describe the wonderful satisfaction that it gives me, when I do manage to restore to life, some wonderful bit of technology that was bound for the rubbish dump. Fixing things is fun, its absorbing, it challenges your mind and it makes you feel good.
You might argue that, if everybody did as I do, no-one would be buying anything new and the economy would collapse. I assure you, almost nobody will have the courage or the smarts to take control of their life this way. So there will always be plenty of fools, being led to financial and emotional slaughter by the consumer message and insisting on buying new. And I’m not suggesting for a moment that you shouldn’t ever buy new, or that you shouldn’t ever treat yourself. I’m just saying that you should do it, like all good things, in moderation.
The other major thing that you can do to make a real and positive difference to your life, is to be careful about how you expend the resources that you do have. Again, resources aren’t just money (although that is certainly one). I’m thinking of how you invest your energy, your time, and your intelligence . If you are an able bodied, intelligent person and you’ve earned a few hours of leisure time, it makes no sense to me, that you totally waste it by sitting on the couch with your brain disengaged, watching that garbage that passes for entertainment on the idiot box (all the while being subjected to a barrage of spurious messages from the advertising industry).
You could be spending that same time doing any number of rewarding, alternative activities. Talking with your partner and your kids, for example. Playing games with them. Maybe growing some wholesome food in your own garden, tinkering in the shed or teaching yourself some new skill. Going for a walk or jog, or working at some hobby that brings you pleasure. These are just a few obvious suggestions. But ask yourself, is sitting in front of the TV, non-communicative and lost in the virtual world of so-called reality TV REALLY your idea of the best use of your time?
A friend of mine recently pointed out that, by the time he gets to the end of his workday, he doesn’t want to do anything but relax. And apparently, watching ‘Big Brother’ and other such pap is his idea of relaxing. To that, I say that almost any alternative activity that you could name will be just as relaxing … probably more so. And your body and mind will get all the relaxation they need, while you are asleep.
As I have said, you need courage and you need logic to change your life for the better. It takes guts to become different to your friends and neighbours, to reject the false values of a consumer society and to embrace a simpler, more modest lifestyle. But if you want to be successful in your life, you need to understand that your bank balance, your list of possessions (and their prestige factor) and the house you happen to live in are only very minor issues. Real success is about living your life feeling contented and happy and as stress-free as you can be. Its about being interested in the world around you and about having the time to enjoy the things that bring you happiness.
Stop wasting your life. Turn off the idiot box (and reduce the chances for the consumerism cherubs to get in your head). Hang on to what you have for as long as it performs the function that you got it to do. If it stops, think about whether you can repair it and make it last longer, before you consign it to the rubbish. Think about buying what you need, rather than what society says you should buy. Consider buying second-hand. You can often get the same outcome for a small fraction of the price.
Be thoughtful about how you spend your time, your money, your talent and your energy and I promise, you really can make a wonderful improvement to your life. You will live longer … because you will be spending more of your time, actually living. You will have more time because you won’t be wasting it. You will have more money because it will stretch much further and you won’t need to spend quite so much of it. You will need to earn less and therefore have more time not working!
Above all, work hard at enjoying whatever you do have. Take the time to enjoy your partner, your kids and the possessions that you’ve already paid for. You just might find that its already enough.
Leave the endless pursuit of more, more, more to the idiot who lacks the intelligence to reject our consumer-driven lifestyle. The beauty of it is that, if you can learn the wisdom of surfing the back of the wave, your life will improve and the planet will be a better place. There’ll be more happiness and less waste of irreplaceable resources. You’ll be consuming a little less, enjoying a little more and you are way less likely to share the fate of so many others … being crushed at the front of the wave.
**** DISCLAIMER ****
No advice in the above article is intended to be taken by anyone. No-one should ever attempt anything mentioned in this article unless they are appropriately qualified. Life can be dangerous and should be referred to a qualified person .. with certificates and such. And breathing … that’s a worry. You just wouldn’t believe the number of people who take that up … and wind up dead! Keep safe and NEVER take a risk.
Andrew Caddle 2013-10-10
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Thank you, Andrew.