We all love new things. New home. New car smell. New kid. New puppy. I’ve had all these new things. We tie happy memories to the new thing day, and over time, those new things inevitably get older. For the important people in life (and I’ll thrown in pets, with the caveat that animals are not our children), hopefully our love intensifies and matures over time. It feels like I love my wife and kids now more than ever; however, in reality, our love of family goes beyond any quantifiable measure. It simply is. The day we bring home a child we think there is no way I will ever love my child more than I do now. Yet in time, that babbling bundle of joy becomes a real and individual person, and as they do, our love for them intensifies. I don’t love them more, but rather more completely and maturely.
But the love of things – that’s a different matter. Hopefully, it isn’t really love at all, but for so many, we confuse things and people far too often. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve thought that way at times. The day I picked up my new (used) Ford Explorer, I remember thinking, “I love this car!” There is nothing better than twin turbos at your disposal when you need them. In Tulsa, some on-ramps feel like only 30 feet, so serious acceleration comes in handy! But a cracked windshield, a few door dings and 50,000 miles later, it is definitely like, not love. We grow old of cars, their mounting miles and imperfections, and finally sell or trade them away for new models. Good thing family is not a motor vehicle!
I’m not particularly a “car guy”, but I know plenty of men and women who are. A new (not used) car every 2-3 years with all the time and effort that then goes into buying and selling these things. That’s time that could be spent with family. In fact, the money for those loan payments has to come from somewhere — hours added at work that could have been spent with family instead. And in the age of constant ads on your TV, in your email, on Facebook and YouTube, no one is entirely immune to the distractions and “stupid tax” passions in life. The marketers may very well know your next major purchase before you do!
So many of us, including myself, suffer from an affliction I will dub newthingitis (rhymes with meningitis!) We grow tired of the “old” well before it is worn out, broken or unrepairable. We have an itch, and the only thing to scratch it is something new. The cell phone companies love that itch. They feed that itch with slick ads and marketing, and what they really want is for you to feel good if you get their new device and bad if you don’t. How awful! In the photographer world in which I dabble, they call it GAS (gear acquisition syndrome.) That disease is the false belief that the newest and greatest equipment will allow you to take better pictures. Marketers want you to believe that your work is not going to be as good without their new and obscenely expensive camera. While some occasions do require specific and more modern gear, 90% of my hobby could be done reasonably well on gear I bought in 2006. If I were actually a better photographer, that number would probably be 95%.
The list of things simply goes on and on and on. Newthingitis is an epidemic. It is, in many ways an assault on happiness, family and self-worth. And I certainly followed along in blissful and blinded ignorance for many years. One of the focuses of The 46 Project is to explore ways to rid my mind and soul of these distractions. One tool I’ve been exploring the past 6 months is the concept of minimalism. That’s just a fancy word for living simpler, with less focus on things, and greater attention to self and the important people in our lives. It is nothing new, but it is one of the cultural movements I see taking shape that appears to have real staying power. If you want to dip your toe in the pool, watch the documentary Minimalism on Netflix. I’ll touch on the work of these guys in some upcoming writings, as I like much of what they have to say.
My post frequency will be a little slower now that I’m out of retirement and have a day job once more, but I’ll strive to put something up around once a week. I truly need to spend more time reading and actively learning. Vegging on television and the internet need to become a thing of the past. Life is too short. Grab it!