Not only for the money

By Jill McKenzie

August 9, 2017 2:24 PM

The Internet and social media claim to bring friends closer together by allowing us continual entry into each other’s homepages and the carefully curated pictures and status’ found there.
What we have gained in access to each other’s homes, vacations and lives, we have lost in authenticity and the real emotional connection between people.
In the same way, our consumer culture and addiction to quick convenience have taken us further from a connection to the earth and our own handy skills.
Many people no longer think it’s necessary to cook at home. Kids are growing up not knowing where their food comes from. Our landfills are full of disposable cleaning products and plastic toys, and we seem willing to pay for things we will hardly use, simply because we’ve seen it on TV or a friend’s Facebook page.
At times, it seems we are working hard to pay for things we neither want nor need, without actually considering the cost.
Increasingly, our only hobbies are creeping online to see what others have, then mindlessly seeking to mimic that lifestyle—never considering the debt or stress this might incur.
And yet, more and more people are discovering that you can’t buy happiness.
You can buy survival, yes. At least, as long as no major calamity strikes to wreak havoc on our way of life. You can also buy status.
You can buy all the things you see on Pinterest or Instagram and post pictures and create envy amongst your circle of friends. But you will be no closer to an authentic life and will have done nothing to increase your knowledge or self-worth. Essentially, the purchase of more things will not enrich your life for long.
Soon, the new will wear off and you will be back to watching for the next big things to buy.
For those who want a more practical lifestyle, where they have laboured in some way for the things they consume, the rejection of consumer culture is not so much about the money as it is about the life experience and enriching one’s knowledge and skills.
If you browse the aisles of a local hardware or farm supply store, you might be surprised at the growing inventory of homesteading-type supplies.
Why would anyone bother, you might ask, to make their own soap or attempt their own sauerkraut, sausage or candles?
It may not be cheaper to make your own soap or deodorant. Growing the vegetables that you pickle and eat in the winter is most definitely the opposite of quick and convenient. As far as time is concerned, it might make more sense to continue on as we have been doing, buying cheap imported goods with unpronounceable ingredients and compromised quality.
Or there’s the other route.
Taking time to learn a skill, practice it and reap its rewards is far more engaging than shopping online and “liking” what you see on Facebook.
Spending your time creating a product that you might have gone out and bought is enriching in ways that are hard to define.
Ask anyone why they have bothered to learn to knit, bake, garden or hunt and you will receive a variety of different reasons. It won’t always be that they intended to save money. In fact, beginning a new hobby can be costly and should not be entered into without first considering a budget, doing research and looking for a deal on the basic materials.
For example, raising chickens for meat might not be cheaper than buying factory farmed poultry by the time you set up your coop and buy your feed. But you will have had the exercise and fresh air every day while caring for your flock.
You will have learned valuable skills while becoming more self-sufficient.
You will know what you are eating, have given your own food a humane life and death, and will not waste what you have worked to grow.
Is everyone going to rush out and get chickens? That’s highly doubtful. But most of us would benefit from unplugging the TV, Internet or iPhone and committing some time to a hobby or craft that brings us pleasure.
It might be hunting or a recreational sport. It might be a traditional craft or artistic endeavour. It might be volunteering or pursuing a long-forgotten dream. Whatever the case, you are sure to derive more pleasure from investing in yourself than you get from mindlessly consuming what you see online and on TV.
Opting out of today’s consumer culture might save you money. Learning to do more for yourself might generate a savings down the road. But it’s not only about the money. It’s about creating a life that satisfies, intrigues and challenges, and investing in yourself rather than coveting what others have.

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